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Whistleblower slams Facebook at Senate

Frances Haugen asks for congressional oversight of Facebook at a Senate subcommittee hearing on Tuesday. Associated Press/Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post

Whistleblower slams Facebook at Senate

Frances Haugen, formerly a product manager with Facebook, sat before the Senate commerce subcommittee on consumer protection on Tuesday to report issues she found while working for the tech giant. Haugen said the company develops algorithms to feed hateful or inflammatory content to hook users, employing a metric to see which users are likely to be on the platforms frequently. More consumers spending more time on social media sells more ads.

What else did Haugen reveal? One leaked internal study showed 13.5 percent of teen girls said Instagram made thoughts of suicide worse, and 17 percent said it made eating disorders more severe. Haugen said the algorithms provide an easy pipeline from healthy eating recipes to content about anorexia. She recommended raising the minimum age for an Instagram account from 13 to 16 or even 18. Facebook has lauded its use of artificial intelligence to remove offensive content, but Haugen said its rate of success at catching underage accounts, offensive content, or messaging about drug paraphernalia was only 10 to 20 percent. Facebook responded that Haugen did not directly work on the issues she raised, but Haugen said the reports she leaked were public to any company department.

Dig deeper: Read Leah Savas’ report in Vitals about Big Tech censoring pro-life ads.

Carolina Lumetta

Carolina is a WORLD reporter and a graduate of the World Journalism Institute and Wheaton College. She resides in Washington, D.C.


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