Facebook to be un-liked
Congress vows to crack down after bombshell whistleblower testimony
WASHINGTON: A Facebook whistleblower has testified before a Senate committee that the social media giant fuels division, harms children and urgently needs to be regulated, drawing pledges from Congress to finally take action.
Ex-employee Frances Haugen testified on Capitol Hill after she leaked reams of internal research to authorities and The Wall Street Journal, which has fuelled one of Facebook’s most serious crises yet.
“I believe that Facebook’s products harm children, stoke division and weaken our democracy,” Ms Haugen told a Senate panel.
“Congressional action is needed. They won’t solve this crisis without your help.”
In her testimony, she emphasised the power held by a service that is tightly woven into the daily lives of billions of users. She also noted the risks that the social media giant’s platforms, particularly Instagram, are fuelling a contagion of eating disorders, body-shaming and self-dissatisfaction that is particularly dangerous for young people.
“There are going to be women walking around this planet in 60 years with brittle bones because of the choices that Facebook made around emphasising profit today,” she said, referring to the long-term impact of eating disorders.
Ms Haugen spoke less than a day after Facebook, its photo-sharing app Instagram and messaging service WhatsApp went offline for roughly seven hours, hitting potentially billions of users and highlighting the global dependence on its services.
“Here’s my message for (Facebook CEO) Mark Zuckerberg. Your time of invading our privacy, promoting toxic content and preying on children and teens is over,” Democratic senator Ed Markey said after the hearing.
“Congress will be taking action … we will not allow your company to harm our children, our families and our democracy any more,” he added.
Senator Amy Klobuchar said the whistleblower disclosures were the long-needed push to get Congress moving.
“I think the time has come for action, and I think you are the catalyst for that action,” she told Ms Haugen.
US politicians have threatened to regulate all-powerful social media platforms for years. Facebook has repeatedly rejected all the accusations.