Facebook hearing: Whistleblower Frances Haugen testifies before Congress

ByJ.R. Stone ABCNews logo
Tuesday, October 5, 2021
Facebook hearing: Whistleblower Frances Haugen testifies before Congress
Former Facebook product manager and whistleblower Frances Haugen blasted the social media giant in her testimony before Congress.

SAN FRANCISCO -- All eyes are on the Facebook whistleblower on Tuesday. Former product manager Frances Haugen blasted the social media giant in her testimony before Congress.

"The choices being made inside of Facebook are disastrous... for our children, for our public safety, for our privacy, and for our Democracy, and that is why we must demand Facebook make changes," she said.

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Haugen claims the company put profits before public good, purposefully sowing division to keep users engaged.

"They want you to believe this is just part of the deal. I am here today to tell you that's not true. These problems are solvable. I came forward at great personal risk because I believe we still have time to act, but we must act now."

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On Sunday's "60 Minutes," Haugen claimed that Facebook prioritizes profits over user safety and could do more to protect against hate speech and misinformation.

"Facebook makes more money when you consume more content, people enjoy engaging with things that illicit more reaction, the more anger they get exposed to, the more they consume," said Haugen on "60 Minutes." She says Facebook has prioritized profits over safety and faces no oversight. Saying the company lied to the public about their progress fighting hate and misinformation.

Haugen previously leaked thousands of pages of internal documents to The Wall Street Journal, some of which say Instagram, owned by Facebook, can be harmful to teen girls.

"I think the self-policing we have seen very clearly is not successful at least based on what we're hearing from the whistleblower," says CNET Editor in Chief Connie Guglielmo.

But that is just some of Facebook's latest concerns. On Monday, Facebook, Instagram, and their additional app called WhatsApp were down for more than six hours. Facebook now says a faulty configuration change is to blame but tech analyst Rob Enderle of the Enderle Group says officials may need to take a closer look here.

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"The timing of the whistleblower with this outage would indicate that there probably needs to be an investigation as to whether this was done intentionally by Facebook or not," says Enderle.

Tech analyst Doug Madory says nine times out of 10 these types of errors are internal but says what happened Monday was serious.

"To have all of their services go down globally for around six hours is huge," says Madory.

Facebook has apologized for the inconvenience going on to say that they have no evidence that user data was compromised as a result of this downtime.

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Lena Pietsch, Director of Policy Communications at Facebook, said in response to Haugen's testimony:

"Today, a Senate Commerce subcommittee held a hearing with a former product manager at Facebook who worked for the company for less than two years, had no direct reports, never attended a decision-point meeting with C-level executives - and testified more than six times to not working on the subject matter in question. We don't agree with her characterization of the many issues she testified about. Despite all this, we agree on one thing; it's time to begin to create standard rules for the internet. It's been 25 years since the rules for the internet have been updated, and instead of expecting the industry to make societal decisions that belong to legislators, it is time for Congress to act."

Facebook also released the following statement on Monday in response to the outage:

"To all the people and businesses around the world who depend on us, we are sorry for the inconvenience caused by today's outage across our platforms. We've been working as hard as we can to restore access, and our systems are now back up and running. The underlying cause of this outage also impacted many of the internal tools and systems we use in our day-to-day operations, complicating our attempts to quickly diagnose and resolve the problem.

Our engineering teams have learned that configuration changes on the backbone routers that coordinate network traffic between our data centers caused issues that interrupted this communication. This disruption to network traffic had a cascading effect on the way our data centers communicate, bringing our services to a halt.

Our services are now back online and we're actively working to fully return them to regular operations. We want to make clear at this time we believe the root cause of this outage was a faulty configuration change. We also have no evidence that user data was compromised as a result of this downtime.

People and businesses around the world rely on us everyday to stay connected. We understand the impact outages like these have on people's lives, and our responsibility to keep people informed about disruptions to our services. We apologize to all those affected, and we're working to understand more about what happened today so we can continue to make our infrastructure more resilient. "