London: Whistleblower Frances Haugen told members of the British parliament that Mark Zuckerberg has "unilateral control over three billion people due to his unassailable position at the top of Facebook", The Guardian reported.
The company's ownership is so structured that Zuckerberg alone ultimately controls the business, giving him enormous power over Instagram and WhatsApp also, she said.
Haugen, who was here on Monday for a parliamentary hearing, demanded immediate external regulation to control Facebook and reduce the harm it induces on society. She gave qualified backing to the United Kingdom government's proposals to regulate social media platforms and make them responsible for content on their sites.
Haugen alleged that Facebook's internal culture prioritise profit over the impact it induces in the broader world. The company admin has no will to ensure that its systems are run safely. Until a counterweight is brought, the systems will be operated for shareholders' interest rather than the public's.
She warned that the company-owned Instagram is not safe for pre-teens. Millions of children globally use the platform. Facebook's own research described young users of the app, who are unable to step away from a service that makes them unhappy, as addicts. The platform is focused on social comparison about bodies, about people's lifestyles, she said. She claimed that thus Instagram has become more dangerous than TikTok or Snapchat.
Haugen blamed social networking platforms for the world's increasing polarised politics. Services like Facebook Groups have a radicalising impact. They are breeding grounds for conspiracy theories and targeted misinformation, she said.
Haugen noted that it was the best when social media was before algorithmic feeds. She urged Facebook to design the platform "human-scaled" so that more content from users' families and friends will fill the newsfeeds. She also called for making sharing materials harder in the platform so that sharing hate and disinformation scales down. She alleged that Facebook hoodwinks the public into thinking that it prioritises tackling disinformation outside the English-speaking world while highlighting how it created societal divisions in Myanmar and Ethiopia.
While the company is employed with "good, kind, conscientious people", the management set wrong incentives for them to maximise profit for shareholders. Facebook is not willing to accept even the slightest of sacrifice on profits for safety, Haugen claimed.
But Mark Zuckerberg said in an earnings call with the investors that the issues the company is facing now are not primarily related to social media, but polarisation that started to rise in the US before he was born. His view is that what is happening is a coordinated effort to selectively use leaked documents to create a false picture of his company. Meanwhile, a Facebook spokesperson said that the truth is that the platform had invested 13 billion dollars and have more than 40,000 people to keep users safe on Facebook.