Facebook whistleblower urges Congress to move against the company

Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen told lawmakers Tuesday she believes the social media giant won’t change its ways unless Congress makes it.

Why it matters: Haugen is finding a receptive audience among senators who have pledged to pass laws on online privacy, altering online liability shields and increasing algorithmic transparency.

Driving the news: The former product manager told the Senate Commerce consumer protection subcommittee that Facebook has focused on scale over safety to the point that it can’t retain employees.

“Facebook is stuck in a cycle where it struggles to hire, that causes it to understaff projects, which causes scandals, which then makes it harder to hire,” Haugen told lawmakers.The company knows its algorithms can lead teens to pro-anorexia content and boost extreme content more likely to elicit a reaction from users, Haugen said.

Haugen called for:

greater transparency into how Facebook operates;the establishment of an effective oversight agency;and for the company to implement interventions to reduce the spread of misinformation, including requiring users to clink on a link before re-sharing it.

“Facebook can change, but it’s clearly not going to do so on its own,” Haugen said. “My fear is that without action, divisive and extremist behaviors we see today are only the beginning.”

What they’re saying: Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who leads the subcommittee, called on Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to testify and for the Securities & Exchange Commission and the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Haugen’s revelations.

Lawmakers, who have been stalled on tech legislation, promised action.Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said his message to Zuckerberg is, “You can work with us or not work with us, but we will not allow your company to harm our children and our families and our democracy.”

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