Facebook whistleblower testifies on Capitol Hill, claims company knows its platforms can be harmful to users

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill got a chance to question a former Facebook employee about the social media giant's operations and how it manages the site.

The employee-turned-whistleblower revealed why she believes the site negatively impacts young children and doesn't do enough to stop misinformation and violence.

Her name is Frances Haugen and she recently raised some red flags, saying Facebook often turns a blind eye to misinformation on its site in order to keep some users engaged in an unhealthy way.

From national security concerns:

"The platform, whether Facebook knows it or not, is being utilized by some of our adversaries in a way that helps push and promote their interests at the expense of America's?" asked Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan.

Haugen replied, "Yes, Facebook is very aware that this is happening on the platform." 

To making body-image issues worse:

"Facebook knows that, that they are leading young users to anorexia content," said Haugen.

She launched a series of allegations against Facebook during a Senate commerce subcommittee hearing on Oct. 5. Now Haugen is urging lawmakers to demand more transparency from the social media company, especially the algorithms of its apps, like Instagram, which she says exposes younger users to harmful content, including eating disorders.

"They know that algorithmic based ranking, so engagement based ranking keeps you on their sites longer," stated Haugen.

Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal said, "Big tech is facing its big tobacco moment." 

Democrats and Republicans say action must be taken against Facebook.

"I think there are some transparency issues that we can address that don't step on people's First Amendment rights," said South Dakota Senator John Thune.

For their part, Facebook disagrees with many of Haugen's allegations. Policy communications director Lena Pietsch stated Haugen "..worked for the company for less than two years, had no direct reports, never attended a decision-point meeting with C-level executives.." but agrees that "it's time to create standard rules for the internet."

Blumenthal is calling for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to testify before Congress, adding Haugen's testimony will potentially encourage other whistleblowers to come forward.

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