Facebook whistleblower Francis Haugen: “They didn’t learn the right lesson.”
Meta made some changes in the year following tech whistleblower Frances Haugen’s revelations, but Haugen doesn’t think it’s done enough.
“They didn’t really learn the right lesson,” Haugen said at the Vox Media Code Conference on Tuesday.
Haugen, a former product manager at Meta (formerly known as Facebook), made a splash last fall when she leaked a vast collection of internal documents showing the company knew more than it was letting on about the harm its products could cause to society.
One of the most controversial documents in Haugen’s leak was an internal Instagram study showing that the app was negatively impacting the mental health of some teens. One The study found that about 13% of British teenagers and 6% of American teenagers respondents linked Instagram to suicidal thoughts.
Since then, legislation on social media and children has either passed or was suggested and Instagram submitted parental control “A significant change,” Haugen said. But Meta has also “further scaled down” its election integrity efforts and “invested less and less” in responsible AI, Haugen said.
“People have been warning Facebook for years that if you hide dirty laundry, eventually that dirty laundry will go on the air, and it will be worse than if you just admitted it now,” she said. According to Haugen, Meta has not acknowledged its role in the world and the Internet and has not become a more responsible steward, adding, “I don’t think they haven’t learned that lesson yet.”
Haugen put much of the blame for this on the man who has more control over Meta than anyone else: its CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and the “echo chamber” around him.
“They haven’t yet acknowledged that their problems are caused by the way they’ve been doing business,” Haugen said. “Because Mark is irresponsible, he can surround himself with people who tell stories like this, who say, ‘You’re the victim here.’ And reality should never have consequences.”
Haugen said she would like Zuckerberg to have much less control over his company, and her “personal fantasy” would be the Securities and Exchange Commission using its powers to force Zuckerberg to sell some of his shares.
“Then we could put in place the normal corporate oversight processes,” she said.
However, Haugen expressed some sympathy for Zuckerberg, ending her speech by saying that she sympathizes with him due to the fact that he is not usually liked and knows that he is. She also had a suggestion on how he could fix it.
“Is there anything else you can do with your life?” she asked.