Facebook has eliminated a number of so-called emergency measures too early that had to counteract the spread of disinformation in the US presidential election last November. This allowed the platform to be used to organize the Capitol storm early this year, says a whistleblower who revealed himself in the CBS program 60 Minutes.
The whistleblower is 37-year-old data scientist Frances Haugen, a former employee of the company. Among other things, she worked on the team that had to counter political disinformation. She said the measures were eliminated as they restricted the growth of the platform.
Haugen says the origin of the problems lies in an algorithm change in 2018, which she said led to increased divisions between users on Facebook. Facebook stopped adapting that algorithm because it saw that users were more likely to return to the social media, causing more ads to be sold.
“I saw time and time again that there were conflicts of interest between what was good for the public and what was good for Facebook,” says Haugen. “And Facebook always opted for its own interest, such as making more money.”
Watch an excerpt of the 60 Minutes interview on Twitter:
Nick Clegg, Facebook‘s top lobbyist, said at CNN prior to the interview with Haugen that he expected the statements about the security measures. He called the claims “ridiculous” and argued that Facebook deleted billions of fake accounts last year.
He argues that a social medium is unable to further increase the polarization between populations that is already taking place. Responsibility for the January 6 uprising was “clearly among people who incite violence and encouraged that even further, including then-President Trump,” Clegg said.
Haugen worked as a product manager at Facebook for about two years. Prior to that, she had similar features at other tech companies such as Google, Pinterest, and Yelp. In the exclusive interview, she says she has observed many of the issues at Facebook with other social media companies as well, but that it was “substantially worse at Facebook than anything I’ve seen before”.
Angry supporters of President Trump pushed into the Capitol at the time and disrupted the vote on the election results: