Frances Haugen, Facebook whistleblower, gives evidence to the UK Parliament

Whistleblower accuses Facebook of fuelling global unrest

Image credit: reuters

A former Facebook employee has said that the social network will fuel increasing global unrest and violence unless its algorithms are changed to prevent the spread of extremist and divisive content.

Whistleblower Frances Haugen (pictured) met with MPs for two hours yesterday where she was probed about the company’s inner workings.

Haugen was a data engineer at Facebook and began secretly copying thousands of the firm’s documents before quitting the firm. She has said the firm’s own internal data has shown that its Instagram platform is more dangerous for teenagers than rivals such as Snapchat or Tiktok.

“The events we’re seeing around the world, things like Myanmar and Ethiopia, those are the opening chapters because engagement-based ranking does two things: one, it prioritises and amplifies divisive and polarising extreme content and two it concentrates it,” Haugen said.

Facebook has rejected her claims with founder Mark Zuckerberg recently saying it was illogical for the social network to deliberately push content that made its users angry.

“Contrary to what was discussed at the hearing, we’ve always had the commercial incentive to remove harmful content from our sites. People don’t want to see it when they use our apps and advertisers don’t want their ads next to it,” Facebook said in a statement on Monday.

Facebook operates in more than 190 countries and boasts more than 2.91 billion monthly users. While this is an increase of 6 per cent from a year ago, it fell short of analysts’ estimates.

Despite the rising backlash against the firm, Facebook announced rising profits yesterday of $9bn (£6.5bn), up from $7.8bn (£5.7bn) for the same period in 2020.

This is despite the hit the firm took after Apple rolled out iOS 14.5 on iPhones, giving users greater control over their privacy. Apple customers were given the option to decide how they are tracked whenever they download a new app from the App Store. They were asked: “Allow [app name] to track your activity across other companies’ apps and websites?” after first opening each app. The vast majority opted for the “Ask app not to track” option, placing significant limits on tracking features that Facebook heavily relies upon to boost ad sales on its platform.

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