Facebook whistleblower to testify company 'threat' to US

Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen to testify company among 'most urgent threats' to US
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Frances Haugen is a former product manager on Facebook's civic misinformation team, and is set to appear before the US Congress on Tuesday.
The US Congress will be the site of Frances Haugen's Tuesday testimony [Samuel Corum/Getty]

Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen will appear before the US Congress on Tuesday, where she is set to sharply criticise her former employer as "one of the most urgent threats" facing the country, and to demand transparency about its operations in order to better regulate it.

Haugen, a former product manager on Facebook's civic misinformation team, says the social media giant keeps its algorithms and operations a secret.

"The core of the issue is that no one can understand Facebook's destructive choices better than Facebook, because only Facebook gets to look under the hood," she said in written testimony prepared for the hearing.

"A critical starting point for effective regulation is transparency," she said, in testimony to be delivered to a Senate Commerce subcommittee.

"On this foundation, we can build sensible rules and standards to address consumer harms, illegal content, data protection, anticompetitive practices, algorithmic systems and more."

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Haugen will tell the panel that Facebook executives regularly choose profits over user safety.

"The company's leadership knows ways to make Facebook and Instagram safer and won't make the necessary changes because they have put their immense profits before people," she will say. "It is accountable to no one."

Haugen came forward this week to reveal she was the one who provided documents used in a Wall Street Journal investigation and a Senate hearing on Instagram's harm to teen girls.

Facebook did not respond to a request for comment.

The Journal's stories showed the company contributed to increased polarisation online when it made changes to its content algorithm; failed to take steps to reduce vaccine hesitancy; and was aware that Instagram harmed the mental health of teenage girls.

Haugen said Facebook had also done too little to prevent its platform from being used by people planning violence.

Facebook was used by people planning mass killings in Myanmar and the 6 January assault on the US Capitol by supporters of then-American President Donald Trump, determined to toss out the 2020 election results.

(Reuters)