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Ex-Facebook worker says social media giant’s wares hurt kids, fueled division

Former Facebook employee and whistleblower Frances Haugen arrives to testify during a Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation hearing on Capitol Hill, on October 5, 2021, in Washington, DC. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via AP, Pool)
Former Facebook employee and whistleblower Frances Haugen arrives to testify during a Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation hearing on Capitol Hill, on October 5, 2021, in Washington, DC. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via AP, Pool)

WASHINGTON — A former Facebook data scientist tells Congress that the social network giant’s products harm children and fuel polarization in the US while its executives refuse to make changes because they elevate profits over safety.

Frances Haugen testifies to the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection. She is accusing the company of being aware of apparent harm to some teens from Instagram and being dishonest in its public fight against hate and misinformation.

Haugen has come forward with a wide-ranging condemnation of Facebook, buttressed 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 also has 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 that 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 says in her written testimony prepared for the hearing. “Congressional action is needed. They won’t solve this crisis without your help.”

After recent reports in The Wall Street Journal based on documents she leaked to the newspaper raised a public outcry, Haugen revealed her identity in a CBS “60 Minutes” interview that aired Sunday night. She insisted that “Facebook, over and over again, has shown it chooses profit over safety.”

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