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Facebook whistleblower testifies platform has “not earned the right to just have blind trust in them”

Frances Haugen, the Facebook whistleblower who first came forward in an explosive “60 Minutes” interview, told a Senate subcommittee on Tuesday that there is “no one” holding Mark Zuckerberg accountable except for himself. 

“Facebook has not earned a right to just have blind trust in them,” Haugen said. “Trust is … last week one of the most beautiful things I heard on the committee was trust is earned. And Facebook has not earned our trust.”

Haugen said the company suffered from “moral bankruptcy” and is “stuck in a loop it can’t get out of.”

Haugen worked as a product manager for the civic misinformation team at Facebook for nearly two years before she quit in May. Before leaving, she said she secretly copied tens of thousands of pages of Facebook internal research, which she said provides evidence the company has been lying to the public about making significant progress against hate, violence and misinformation.

Haugen gave many of the documents to The Wall Street Journal, which published reporting on the research that showed the company was aware of the harm it does to underage users. She also shared the internal research with Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, and Senator Marsha Blackburn, Republican of Tennessee, who are both on the Senate subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Data Security. Haugen also filed a whistleblower complaint with the Securities and Exchange Commission. 

While the hearing touched on a wide swath of Facebook’s problems, it focused on the platform’s impact on children, coming after the company paused its planned “Instagram for Kids” and a week after its global safety head defended children’s use of the platform. Haugen compared the platform to cigarettes, and several lawmakers said Facebook needed to be treated like Big Tobacco.

“Facebook understands that if they want to continue to grow, they have to find new users,” Haugen said. “They have to make sure that that next generation is just as engaged on Instagram as the current one. And the way they’ll do that is by making sure that children establish habits before they have good self-regulation.”

Facebook went on the offense while Haugen testified, with spokespeople tweeting that she didn’t work on “child safety or Instagram or research these issues and has no direct knowledge of the topic from her work at Facebook.” The company also issued a statement after her testimony trying to discredit her. 

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