Facebook whistleblower Francis Haugen was “shocked” to hear that the company plans to hire 10,000 engineers in Europe to work on the meta-universe, a version of the Internet based on virtual and augmented reality, when its money is better spent on security. she told British lawmakers on Monday.
“I was shocked to hear that Facebook wants to double the metaworld and that they are going to hire 10,000 engineers in Europe to work on the metaworld,” she said. “Because I thought, ‘Wow, do you know what we could do safely if we had another 10,000 engineers?’ That would be amazing. “
Haugen, 37, a former product manager at Facebook’s public disinformation group, testified before a joint committee discussing a draft bill on Internet safety that regulates social media. Her evidence will determine the committee’s work in drafting the bill, which is to be submitted to parliament for approval next year.
The bill will hold social media accountable for harmful content distributed on their platforms, which will result in large fines in the United Kingdom if they do not remove materials such as child sexual abuse and terrorist content.
“Inside the company, there is a view that security is a cost center, not a growth center, which I think is very short-term, because Facebook’s own research has shown that when people have a worse experience of site integrity, they are less likely to they will save, ”Haugen said.
A spokesman for Drew Pusatery said Facebook had invested heavily in improving its platform.
“At first glance, this criticism does not make sense, given almost every document that discusses the details of the work that people have done to better understand how to address our challenges,” Pusater said in an email.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg dismissed the idea that Facebook favors growth over security.
“We are very concerned about issues such as safety, well-being and mental health,” he said on Facebook this month after Haugen testified before US lawmakers. “If we wanted to ignore research, why should we create a industry-leading research program to understand these important issues?”
Facebook told NBC News that it has spent $ 13 billion on malicious content since 2016 and that it employs 40,000 people working on security.
A consortium of 17 media outlets, including NBC News, released dozens of reports Monday based on tens of thousands of pages of internal documents obtained by Haugen, which included disclosures made by the Securities and Exchange Commission and submitted to Congress in an edited form. her legal counsel.
Haugen attributes many of Facebook’s failures to effectively control its platform to a “culture of positivity.”
“There is a philosophy that people focus on the good,” she said. “And it’s not always bad, but the problem is that when it’s so intense that it discourages people from looking at complex issues, it becomes dangerous.”
She said Silicon Valley-based Facebook employees are more likely to review their own Facebook news feeds and see “a nice place where people treat each other well,” and that they see no harm to society created in others. countries of the world. for example, in Ethiopia, where the merged documents show that the platform is used to spread hate speech and incite violence without proper moderation of the content in several local languages.
While researchers from Facebook’s integrity teams may be well aware of the damage the platform is exacerbating, the information doesn’t necessarily reach executives, Haugen said.
“Good news is flowing, but not bad,” she said. “Managers see all the good that they bring, and they can write off the bad as the cost of all that is good.”
She said that the voices of employees who emphasize harm and call for mitigation strategies “are not amplified internally because they force the company to grow a little slower, and it is a company that allows development.”
Damian Collins, chairman of the joint committee, said in a statement before the hearing: “The evidence of Frances Hogen has so far strengthened the arguments of an independent regulator with the power to audit and inspect large technology companies. We need more transparency about the decisions that companies like Facebook make when they exchange user security for user engagement. ”
In her appearance on Capitol Hill on October 5, Haugen called on lawmakers to demand more transparency from Facebook.
“I believe that Facebook products harm children, inflame divisions, weaken our democracy and much more,” she said in the Senate Trade Subcommittee on Consumer Protection.