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Facebook Whistleblower Speaks, Shares Documents on Deliberate Lies and Disregard of Misinformation, Contacts US Regulators

An Iowa data scientist with a computer engineering degree and a Harvard MBA has come forward as the whistleblower leaking damaging information about Facebook to the Wall Street Journal — and that’s just the beginning. They’ve now also filed at least eight complaints with America’s Securities and Exchange Commission, “which has broad oversight over financial markets and has the power to bring charges against companies suspected of misleading investors,” reports the Washington Post. To buttress the complaints, the whistleblower secretly copied “tens of thousands” of pages of internal Facebook research, according to a report tonight on the CBS News show 60 Minutes, which summarizes her ultimate conclusion: “that the company is lying to the public about making significant progress against hate, violence and misinformation.

“One study she found from this year says ‘We estimate that we may action as little as 3 to 5% of hate, and about 0.6% of violence and incitement on Facebook. Despite being the best in the world at it.” Another internal Facebook document admits point-blank that “We have evidence from a variety of sources that hate speech, divisive political speech and misinformation on Facebook and the family of apps are affecting societies around the world.”

60 Minutes points out that Facebook “has 2.8 billion users, which is 60% of all internet-connected people on Earth.”

[Whistleblower Frances] Haugen told us the root of Facebook’s problem is in a change that it made in 2018 to its algorithms — the programming that decides what you see on your Facebook news feed… “One of the consequences of how Facebook is picking out that content today is it is optimizing for content that gets engagement, or reaction. But its own research is showing that content that is hateful, that is divisive, that is polarizing, it’s easier to inspire people to anger than it is to other emotions… Facebook has realized that if they change the algorithm to be safer, people will spend less time on the site, they’ll click on less ads, they’ll make less money.”

60 Minutes reports that Facebook was even contacted by “major political parties across Europe,” according to leaked internal documents which say the parties specifically complained that a change Facebook’s algorithm “has forced them to skew negative in their communications on Facebook… leading them into more extreme policy positions.” (Or, as 60 Minutes puts it, “The European political parties were essentially saying to Facebook the way you’ve written your algorithm is changing the way we lead our countries.” The whistleblower sees their position as “You are forcing us to take positions that we don’t like, that we know are bad for society. We know if we don’t take those positions, we won’t win in the marketplace of social media.”

Haugen says Facebook understood the danger to the 2020 Election. So, it turned on safety systems to reduce misinformation — but many of those changes, she says, were temporary. “And as soon as the election was over, they turned them back off or they changed the settings back to what they were before, to prioritize growth over safety. And that really feels like a betrayal of democracy to me.” Facebook says some of the safety systems remained. But, after the election, Facebook was used by some to organize the January 6th insurrection….

After the attack, Facebook employees raged on an internal message board copied by Haugen. “…Haven’t we had enough time to figure out how to manage discourse without enabling violence?”

The whistleblower will now appear Tuesday before a U.S. Senate Commerce consumer protection subcommittee — and has already shared some of their documents with Congressional offices probing Facebook, according to the Washington Post. “It’s important because Big Tech is at an inflection point,” the whistleblower’s lawyer tells the newspaper. They argue that ultimately Big Tech “touches every aspect of our lives — whether it’s individuals personally or democratic institutions globally. With such far reaching consequences, transparency is critical to oversight.

“And lawful whistleblowing is a critical component of oversight and holding companies accountable.”

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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