Time Magazine has tackled claims of Facebook's cavalier attitude towards hatred and misinformation spread on its platform in a new magazine cover that features Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and an option to "delete" Facebook. The related article is titled: "How Facebook Forced a Reckoning by Shutting Down the Team That Put People Ahead of Profits".
Whistleblower and former Facebook employee Frances Haugen made public allegations of Facebook prioritising profits over people, stating that the platform was a danger to democracy and a danger to children. The Times article tracks the formation and dissolution of the "civic integrity" unit at Facebook that she was part of which was aimed at tackling viral fake news, fake information and hateful content. The team was disbanded in December last year and its duties were supposedly divided amongst many departments, a claim by Facebook which Haugen denies.
"Whatever the future direction of Facebook, it is clear that discontent has been brewing internally. Haugen's document leak and testimony have already sparked calls for stricter regulation and improved the quality of public debate about social media's influence," writes Billy Perrigo, the author of the article.
Haugen worked at Facebook for nearly two years as a product manager in the company's civic integrity team. Her job was largely focused on tracking the spread of misinformation on the platform and ensuring that the platform was not used to destabilise democracy. She has also worked at other big tech companies like Google and is the co-founder of the dating app known as Hinge.
In the initial Wall Street Journal expose, Haugen said that she was inspired to combat fake news after seeing a relative develop an obsession with white nationalist conspiracy theories. She has also testified as to Facebook's lack of concern about such information in front of the US Senate on Tuesday.Haugen went as far as claiming that Facebook was used to plan the Capitol riot on January 6, after the company chose to turn off safety systems following the US presidential elections. Leaked documents by her show that Facebook was aware of how detrimental the content on its platform was becoming , especially to vulnerable teenagers and girls, but chose to do nothing.
Mark Zuckerberg has hit out at the claims, denying that Facebook was trying to make users deliberately angry for profits.
"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," Zuckerberg wrote in a note to Facebook employees that he then posted on his account.