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Facebook Whistleblower Says the Company 'Over and Over Again' Has Shown 'It Chooses Profit Over Safety'

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Facebook whistleblower Fances Haugen says while at Facebook she saw “over and over again” that “there were conflicts of interest between what was good for the public and what was good for Facebook.”

During a “60 Minutes” interview, Haugen said, “Facebook, over and over again, has shown it chooses profit over safety.”

The former Facebook Inc. employee is expected to testify before Congress on Tuesday and wants the federal government to impose regulations.

Haugen left Facebook in May. She was hired to join the company’s “Civic Integrity” team. However, she grew “frustrated by what she saw as the company’s lack of openness about its platforms’ potential for harm and unwillingness to address its flaws,” as The Wall Street Journal writes.

She is “responsible for leaking documents behind a Wall Street Journal series,” as The Washington Post writes, and the “60 Minutes” interview is the first time her identity was revealed.

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Haugen also said during the interview that the root of Facebook’s problem is a change that occurred in 2018. It was a change to its algorithms which determines what users view on their news feeds.

She noted that Facebook 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,” Haugen said.

Watch her interview below:

Lena Pietsch, Facebook’s director of policy communications, reacted to the “60 Minutes” report, saying in a statement to CBS News, “Every day our teams have to balance protecting the right of billions of people to express themselves openly with the need to keep our platform a safe and positive place. We continue to make significant improvements to tackle the spread of misinformation and harmful content.”

“To suggest we encourage bad content and do nothing is just not true,” Pietsch added.

Responding to the claim about the 2018 change to “Meaningful Social Interactions” amplifying polarizing and hateful content, Pietsch said, “The goal of the Meaningful Social Interactions ranking change is in the name: improve people’s experience by prioritizing posts that inspire interactions, particularly conversations, between family and friends — which research shows is better for people’s well-being — and deprioritizing public content.”

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Pietsch continued, “Research also shows that polarization has been growing in the United States for decades, long before platforms like Facebook even existed, and that it is decreasing in other countries where Internet and Facebook use has increased. We have our role to play and will continue to make changes consistent with the goal of making people’s experience more meaningful, but blaming Facebook ignores the deeper causes of these issues – and the research.”

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