Yesterday, data engineer turned whistleblower Frances Haugen spoke before the US Senate about the dangers of Facebook, specifically for younger users. According to Haugen, not only is the continuous use of Facebook, as well as its companion apps like Instagram, demonstrably harmful to the mental health of teenagers, but Facebook was aware of this information and consciously chose to do nothing about it.
Today, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg fired back at Haugen’s statements, calling them false. “At the heart of these accusations is this idea that we prioritise profit over safety and wellbeing. That’s just not true,” he said in a blog post.
“The argument that we deliberately push content that makes people angry for profit is deeply illogical. We make money from ads, and advertisers consistently tell us they don’t want their ads next to harmful or angry content.”
“Many of the claims don’t make any sense. If we wanted to ignore research, why would we create an industry-leading research programme to understand these important issues in the first place?” he said.
The CEO denied an ex-manager’s remarks — based on Facebook’s own research — that the company puts “profits before people,” saying this was “just not true.” https://t.co/tpp7ChdQw0
— HuffPost (@HuffPost) October 6, 2021
Zuckerberg claims that Facebook did make efforts to limit the amount of harmful content on the platform, but their biggest obstacle to doing so was a lack of manpower. “If we didn’t care about fighting harmful content, then why would we employ so many more people dedicated to this than any other company in our space – even ones larger than us? If we wanted to hide our results, why would we have established an industry-leading standard for transparency and reporting on what we’re doing?”
Zuckerberg also noted that the platform made changes to its feed algorithm back in 2018 to show less misinformation and harmful content. “This change showed fewer viral videos and more content from friends and family – which we did knowing it would mean people spent less time on Facebook, but that research suggested it was the right thing for people’s wellbeing. Is that something a company focused on profits over people would do?”