Facebook: Nick Clegg avoids questions on whistleblower Haugen’s testimony
By SEAMLESS DAILY
10 October 2021
The Facebook executive Nick Clegg took a damage-limitation tour of US political talkshows on Sunday, but remained evasive over questions about the social media giant's contribution to the deadly attack on the US Capitol on 6 January this year.
The former British deputy prime minister, now Facebook vice-president of global affairs, was responding to a barrage of damaging claims from the whistleblower Frances Haugen.
"Given that we have thousands of algorithms and millions of people using it, I can't give you a yes or no answer to individual personalised feeds each person uses," Clegg told CNN ’ s State of the Union.
A week ago, Clegg blasted suggestions that social media contributed to the insurrection as "ludicrous", and strongly resisted claims that Facebook ignored problems on its platform.
He outlined steps he said the company was taking to "reduce and mitigate the bad and amplify the good", including new tools to direct users, especially teenagers, away from harmful content on Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.
He also said Facebook was open to discussions over stricter regulation including internet privacy legislation.
And we want to give users more control.
Pressure is growing in Congress for tighter restrictions on social media companies, including moves to break up Facebook dating from the Trump administration.
The Democratic Massachusetts senator Ed Markey said last month Facebook was "just like big tobacco, pushing a product that they know is harmful to the health of young people, pushing it to them early, all so Facebook can make money".
"We 're not saying this is a substitution of our own responsibilities," he told NBC, “ but there are a whole bunch of things that only regulators and lawmakers can do.
I don ’ t think anyone wants a private company to adjudicate on these difficult trade-offs between free expression on one hand and moderating or removing content on the other.
"Only lawmakers can create a digital regulator … we make the best judgment we possibly can but we 're caught in the middle.
Lawmakers have to resolve that themselves."
"I appreciate that he is willing to talk about things but I believe the time for conversation is done, the time for action is now," she told CNN.
“ If they 're willing to sign on I ’ m all for it, but so far we haven ’ t seen that.
But in SNL's spoof of the hearing, instead of discussing the scandals at Facebook and the harm it causes, Haugen has to field questions from Congressmembers about how social media works.
In Saturday night's cold open, Gardner introduced herself as Haugen, the former Facebook employee who came forward last week to reveal that Facebook executives knew about the harm it was causing to young adults and democracies, but chose not to act.
He says : 'Once again, I would like to thank the Facebook whistleblower for coming forward,' to which Gardner's Haugen replies, 'Thank you.
"I'm here today because I believe Facebook ’ s products harm children, stoke division and weaken our democracy," Haugen told a senate subcommittee.
' I think he has like 50 million,' Haugen replies.
'The algorithm ? '
' i was particularly drawn to your testimony about bullying online,' she says, as cruz.
'OK excellent,' Bryant's Cruz says, as he appears to take notes on a giant legal pad.
'well, it's just one person's opinion,' cruz retorts.
' I'm just saying these young girls are trying to get a face that don't even exist.
' I'm sorry, I'm bad,' he concludes, as Day's Blumenthal looks at him quizzically and says' I'm just going to move on- Senator Corey Booker. '
'So my question is : Does that make sense, right?
'Like, when I stand next to her in a photo, that looks regular ? '
“ 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.
'Congress can change the rules that Facebook plays by and stop the many harms it is causing,' she said, telling lawmakers : 'They won't solve this crisis without your help. '
And the world beyond Facebook needed to know.
When the 37-year-old data scientist went before Congress and the cameras last week to accuse Facebook of pursuing profit over safety, it was likely the most consequential choice of her life.
And her accusations that Facebook's platforms harm children and incite political violence -- backed up by thousands of pages of the company ’ s own research -- may well be the most damning.
But she is just the latest to join in a growing list of workers from across tech determined to speak out.
Nearly all are women, and observers say that's no coincidence.
That status positions them to be more critical and see "some of the systemic issues in a way that people who are part of the system and who are benefiting from it the most and who are entrenched in it, may not be able to process," she said.
In recent years, workers at companies including Google, Pinterest Uber and Theranos, as well as others from Facebook, have sounded alarms about what they say are gross abuses of power by those in control.
Workers, many well educated and highly paid, have long embraced that ethic.
Still, there is a difference between stewing about your company's failings and revealing them to the world.
There is a price to be paid, and Haugen certainly knew that.
And you know that the moment you start your testimony, your life is going to change," said Wendell Potter a former health insurance executive who blew the whistle on his own industry's practices.
We talked a lot of about ethical use of data and building things the wrong way," said Jonathan Sheffi, who graduated with Haugen in 2011.
While at Harvard, Haugen worked with another student to create an online dating platform to put like-minded mates together, a template the partner later turned into dating app Hinge.
In recent interviews on "60 Minutes" and with the Wall Street Journal, Haugen recalled telling the company that she might be interested in a job if it involved helping the platform address democracy and misinformation.
"i believe in the potential of facebook's company network for the last time in may and last week, wylie said he had relived his own experience as a whistleblower by watching haugen.
“ We can have social media we enjoy, that connects us, without tearing apart our democracy, putting our children in danger, and sowing ethnic violence around the world.
"There's going to be a clamp down internally.
Sophie Zhang, a former Facebook employee who last year accused the social network of ignoring fake accounts used to undermine foreign elections, said she was surprised the company had not caught Haugen when she was going through company research.
She repeatedly referred to the company choosing growth and profit over safety and warned that Facebook and Instagram's algorithms – which tailor the content that a user sees – were causing harm.
Haugen was lauded by her interlocutors, with Democrat Senator Ed Markey thanking her for becoming a "21st-century American hero".
Haugen is not the first whistleblower to raise concerns about the tech giant.
one year later, facebook was fined $ 5bn by the us federal trade commission for "deceiving" users about its ability to keep personal information private.
So for Wylie, seeing Haugen warn that Facebook's algorithms are a danger to the public good made him feel like an opportunity has already been missed.
“ Congress will be taking action.
In one exchange, Haugen said : "The buck stops with him."
One Silicon Valley executive told the Observer that this lack of regard extended beyond the subcommittee on consumer protection.
Facebook, and Mark Zuckerberg, were never that popular in Washington and were even less so now.
In the UK, the online safety bill will take on the work of regulating Facebook.
"How can the regulator be effective if key information about the platform and how it is being run is being kept from them ?"
"One of the failures of public discourse around all of the problems with big tech and algorithms is that we fail to understand that these are products of engineering.
In a blogpost written after Haugen ’ s testimony, Zuckerberg said her claims that the company puts profit over people ’ s safety are "just not true".
And it is a very consequential company."
Zuboff says Facebook, along with Google and many others, is a pure distillation of her thesis : that big tech companies secretly mine personal experience, turn it into data, and generate behavioural predictions that they sell to business customers.
Zuboff warns that it would be a mistake for Haugen's testimony to be interpreted as a problem attached to a single company or leader.
2021 : Frances Haugen, a Facebook product manager, leaves the company in May and takes with her tens of thousands of pages of internal documents that contain a litany of revelations, including : that Instagram knew it was harming the mental health of some teenage girls; that a Facebook algorithm change in 2018 increased divisiveness on the platform; and that nearly 90 % of Facebook's moderation efforts are focused on English content, despite the majority of users being non-English speakers.
Stay up to date with our posts
Seamless Daily is an innovative news platform that is updated 24/7 to help you keep up to date with all the current events around the globe.
Our team of professional editors as well as our state-of-the-art artificial intelligence platforms ensure that our curation is accurate, fact-checked, and trustworthy.