National Post (Latest Edition)
Claims Facebook prioritizes profit ‘just not true,’ CEO says
Facebook Inc. Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg addressed a recent series of negative stories about the company for the first time by saying accusations that it puts profit over user safety are “just not true.”
“It’s difficult to see coverage that misrepresents our work and our motives. At the most basic level, I think most of us just don’t recognize the false picture of the company that is being painted,” he wrote in a note to employees on Tuesday that he also posted publicly.
It came after Frances Haugen, a former employee, testified in a Senate hearing about her experience there and internal research she said showed Facebook prioritized profit while stoking division.
Haugen appeared on 60 Minutes on Sunday night, saying Facebook routinely made decisions that put business interests ahead of user safety.
“There were conflicts of interest between what was good for the public and what was good for Facebook,” she said. “Facebook over and over again chose to optimize for its own interests like making more money.”
Zuckerberg wrote that he was bothered by a narrative that Facebook is not worried about children’s safety. Two Senate hearings over the past week have focused on Facebook’s impact on teens and young children, including Haugen’s testimony.
The Wall Street Journal published internal Facebook research last month, provided by Haugen, that showed Instagram made some mental health issues worse for teenagers who use the product. The company, which was building a version of Instagram for children, has put that project on hold.
“When it comes to young people’s health or well-being, every negative experience matters,” the CEO wrote. “We have worked for years on industry-leading efforts to help people in these moments and I’m proud of the work we’ve done.”
Facebook doesn’t benefit from content that makes people angry or depressed or make all product decisions to maximize user interactions, Zuckerberg said. When it changed its News Feed algorithm to show more posts from friends and family a few years back, the CEO added, the company did so knowing that people would spend less time on the service.
Zuckerberg ended the note by encouraging Facebook’s workforce and expressing his gratitude for their work.
On Wednesday, the Journal reported that Facebook Inc. had slowed down the rollout of new products in recent days.
Executives at the social media company have also put a hold on some work on existing products, the Journal said, citing people familiar with the matter.
In addition to Haugen’s testimony, Facebook also experienced a six-hour outage on Monday due to a “faulty configuration change,” preventing its 3.5 billion users from accessing its social media and messaging services such as Whatsapp, Instagram and Messenger.
Facebook shares have lost about 3 per cent this week. They closed at US$333.64, up 0.2 per cent, on Wednesday.