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Facebook’s Whistleblower speaks up on Big Tech Regulation

Facebook’s Whistleblower speaks up on Big Tech Regulation

 

Facebook’s whistleblower, Francis Haugen, has been the viral talk of the town since last month after her testimony on the US Senate.

American government officials have been skeptical over Facebook’s business policy for years. Since 2011, they have been sounding alarms about Facebook’s failures to protect users’ privacy. Not to mention its reluctance to get rid of misinformation on its platforms, and its impact on its users’ mental health. But they haven’t passed any new laws addressing those issues. Currently, some senior legislators have realized they have the impetus they need to make real change. She is the whistleblower and ex-employee of Facebook, Frances Haugen.

Facebook’s Whistleblower speaks up on Big Tech Regulation
Former Facebook employee Frances Haugen testifies before the US Senate on October 5.

Facebook’s whistleblower and the scandal – Why are they important?

Haugen, a former product manager at Facebook, testified before the Senate Commerce subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security on 5th October. An event legislators are narrating as an urgent call to action to regulate Facebook. The whistleblower induced a wave of media backlash of Facebook when she unraveled thousands of internal documents with the Wall Street Journal. The Stock Exchange Commission also got one. Congress received information that proves Facebook has been aware about the harms its products can bring. Yet it has downplayed this reality to legislators and the civil population. Such mammoth evidence, which has been missing from the debate till the leak. Now showcases how Facebook carried out research that found its products can cause mental health problems. Intentionally allow violent content to spread like wildfire, and hype up polarizing reactions. Afterwards, utterly turn its head away from that study.

“I came forward because I recognized a frightening truth: Almost no one outside Facebook knows what happens inside Facebook,” said Haugen in her opening testimony on Tuesday.

 

In his reply to Tuesday’s Senate session, Facebook’s director of policy communications Lena Pietsch said that Haugen “worked for the company for less than two years, had no direct reports, never attended a decision-point meeting with C-level executives — and testified more than six times to not working on the subject matter in question.”

“We don’t agree with her characterization of the many issues she testified about,” said Pietsch. “Despite all this, we agree on one thing; it’s time to begin to create standard rules for the internet. It’s been 25 years since the rules for the internet have been updated, and instead of expecting the industry to make societal decisions that belong to legislators, it is time for Congress to act.”

What’s up with Congress and the Facebook’s whistleblower?

Before, congressional hearings about Facebook have often escalated into political grandstanding, with lawmakers steering away from the main topic and into their own partisan matters with the company. Some Republicans have insisted on making baseless accusations that the social media giant has an anti-right bias. At other times, lawmakers have made blunders that reveal their seeming lack of basic technological knowledge. Example of an unforgettable one is the infamous question by now-retired Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah about how Facebook makes money.

This time, finally, legislators across the aisle were notably focused and well-learned on the relevant — and tangible — issues at stake. They asked Haugen pointed questions about the harms Facebook can cause, particularly to minor citizens, and how that can be dealt with.

In return, Haugen was an articulate witness. She explained seriously hard subjects like Facebook’s algorithmically ranked News Feed in a crystal clear manner. Moreover, she laid out the most effective and detailed ways yet to both the government and the citizens as to all that is wrong with Facebook and how these problems can be solved.

 

Deconstructing Facebook’s algorithmic world

Secret files outed by Haugen showcased that by using a 2018 update to Facebook’s News Feed policy rewarded content that provokes more emotion among the public. Specifically anger, because it induces more ‘Reacts’ and ‘Comments’ than any other emotion. Haugen and members of Congress also talked about other matters. Like how Facebook’s algorithms can also push young citizens toward destructive contents. Examples include promoting behaviors that cause eating disorders.

“I have spent most of my career on engagement-based rankings,” said Haugen, who in the past has also served at Google and Pinterest. “Facebook says, ‘We could do it safely because we have AI. Or Artificial Intelligence will find the bad content that we know our engagement-based rankings is promoting,’” she said. But she warned that “Facebook’s own research says they cannot adequately identify” that dangerous content, and that as a result those algorithms are drawing out “extreme sentiment and division” in the society.

This, Haugen emphasized, is at the heart of many of Facebook’s most serious problems. She also believes that Congress needs to implement its oversight on this issue.

 

We need Federal Laws to protect us from Facebook

Users submit an official complaint to the Federal Trade Commission and contact your Congressmen.

Facebook’s whistleblower is a blog. It documents Facebook’s many alleged violations of federal privacy laws. Try including user-tracking. Tracking non-users’ internet activity. Always storing times of calls or texts even when users don’t make them themselves. Selling your personal data to advertisers for profit without your consent. The blog includes links to legislation proposed in Congress. Easily, which would establish federal privacy protection legislation for Facebook’s alleged violations of federal privacy laws. It would allow users to sue Facebook in court for violating their user agreement and privacy.

The blog has been in operation since February 24, 2009. The purpose of the blog is to raise awareness of Facebook’s alleged violations of federal privacy laws. We need to encourage members of Congress to protect Facebook users from being exploited for profit by Facebook. The government needs to allow Facebook users who have been harmed by Facebook’s alleged violations of federal privacy laws. Make sure to to include anyone who wishes to bring a class action suit against Facebook.

Will you support reforms?

“The internet is not something that can be tamed or controlled. That’s what makes it so powerful. That’s what makes it so great,” said Amy Klobuchar. She is the Minnesota Democrat who is co-sponsoring a bill to protect children from data collection. “But the other side of that coin, unfortunately for us right now, is that it doesn’t always do what we want users to do or what we want our policies to be.”

Klobuchar said there were legitimate reasons why people were concerned about the companies. Google, Facebook and others. Telling us that she and other lawmakers were working on legislation that would put measures in place to counteract those fears. Perhaps they can create a “right to be forgotten” provision. The provision will allow people to opt out of their data to stop sharing with advertisers. Or creating a new national data protection agency. But those won’t happen if Congress doesn’t fight for them first.

Meanwhile, Democrats like Klobuchar are plotting a campaign against the major tech companies. After all, they’re highly successful — both in terms of traffic and revenue. This people rely heavily on advertising revenue to stay afloat.

Needed Actions by us

Facebook’s whistleblower, Francis Haugen, seemed to realize some of these nuances in her discussion of 230. She proposed for regulatory bodies to amend Section 230. In order to make companies legally liable for their algorithms promoting disturbing media. All the while ignoring specific users’ posts.

Some words from the author

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