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Zuckerberg says claim Facebook put profits over safety 'just not true'

His comments came after a whistleblower Frances Haugen, gave evidence to US politicians yesterday.

Image: Alamy Stock Photo

FACEBOOK CEO MARK Zuckerberg has said claims that his company puts profits over safety is “just not true.”

His comments came after a whistleblower Frances Haugen, told US politicians yesterday that the social media giant fuels division, harms children and needs to be regulated.

“The argument that we deliberately push content that makes people angry for profit is deeply illogical,” Zuckerberg wrote in a note to Facebook employees that he then posted on his account, hours after a whistleblower testified before US lawmakers.

“I don’t know any tech company that sets out to build products that make people angry or depressed. The moral, business and product incentives all point in the opposite direction.”

Frances Haugen was giving evidence to the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, after accusing the company of being aware of apparent harm to some teenagers from Instagram and being dishonest in its public fight against hate and misinformation.

Haugen has come forward with a wide-ranging condemnation of Facebook, with tens of thousands of pages of internal research documents she secretly copied before leaving her job in the company’s civic integrity unit.

She has also filed complaints with federal authorities alleging that Facebook’s own research shows that it amplifies hate, misinformation and political unrest, but the company hides what it knows.

Haugen says she is speaking out because of her belief that “Facebook’s products harm children, stoke division and weaken our democracy”.

“The company’s leadership knows how to make Facebook and Instagram safer but won’t make the necessary changes because they have put their astronomical profits before people,” she said in written evidence prepared for the hearing.

After recent reports based on documents she leaked to Wall Street Journal raised a public outcry, Haugen revealed her identity in a TV interview aired on Sunday night. She said: “Facebook, over and over again, has shown it chooses profit over safety.”

The ex-employee challenging the social network with 2.8 billion users worldwide and nearly a trillion dollars in market value is a 37-year-old data expert with a degree in computer engineering and a master’s degree in business from Harvard.

Before being recruited by Facebook in 2019, she worked for 15 years at tech companies including Google, Pinterest and Yelp.

“I believe that Facebook’s products harm children, stoke division and weaken our democracy,” Haugen told a Senate panel.

“Congressional action is needed. They won’t solve this crisis without your help,” she added.

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In her testimony, she emphasized the power held by a service that is tightly woven into the daily lives of billions of users.

She also noted the risks that the social media giant’s platforms are fueling a contagion of eating disorders, body-shaming and self-dissatisfaction that is particularly dangerous for young people.

“There are going to be women walking around this planet in 60 years with brittle bones because of the choices that Facebook made around emphasizing profit today,” she said, referring to the impact of eating disorders.

With reporting from Niall O’Connor.

© AFP 2021

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