WASHINGTON, D.C. — A former Facebook data scientist testified before Congress that the social network giant’s products harm children and fuel polarization in the U.S. while its executives refuse to make needed changes because they elevate profits over safety.
Frances Haugen is appearing for a hearing Tuesday by the Senate Commerce subcommittee on consumer protection.
The data scientist has stunned lawmakers and the public with revelations of the company’s awareness of apparent harm to some teens from Instagram and her accusations of dishonesty in its fight against hate and misinformation.
“Facebook’s products harm children, stoke division and weaken our democracy," she said at the hearing.
During her testimony, Haugen laid responsibility with the company’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg.
The former Facebook employee asked for the government to take action, comparing the platform’s harm with that from tobacco, opioids and car accidents.
“When we realized big tobacco was hiding the harms it caused, government took action. When we figured out cars were safer with seatbelts, the government took action. And when the government learned that opioids were taking lives, the government took action. I implore you to do the same here,” said Haugen.
As for the next steps, Haugen says information should be readily available for parents to advise their children about how to use social media.
“There is an active need for schools or maybe the National Institutes of Health to make established information, where if parents want to learn on how to support their kids, it should be easy for them to know what is constructive and what is not constructive because Facebook’s own research says kids today feel like they are struggling alone with all these issues because their parents can’t guide them,” she said.
After recent reports in The Wall Street Journal based on documents Haugen leaked to the newspaper raised a public outcry, she revealed her identity in a CBS “60 Minutes” interview that aired Sunday.