Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has publicly shared a lengthy memo sent to staff in the wake of an explosive US senate hearing on Tuesday that saw whistleblower Frances Haugen describe the social media giant as “morally bankrupt.”
Haugen, a former employee and tech data expert, made a number of bombshell accusations against the social media behemoth, including that it deliberately targeted young people with harmful information.
“Facebook’s products harm children, stoke division and weaken our democracy,” Haugen claimed.
“The company’s leadership knows how to make Facebook and Instagram safer, but won’t make the necessary changes because they have put their astronomical profits before people.”
Her testimony comes a day after a massive outage that saw Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp stop functioning for six hours, costing the company millions of dollars in revenue.
On Wednesday, Zuckerberg fired back to defend his beleaguered brainchild, saying the company’s work had been mischaracterised in the senate hearings.
Addressing the outage, he said the monetary loss was less important than “what it means for the people who rely on our services to communicate with loved ones, run their businesses, or support their communities.”
Addressing Haugen’s explosive indictment of his company, Zuckerberg said “it just it just doesn’t reflect the company we know.”
“We care deeply about issues like safety, well-being and mental health,” Zuckerberg wrote.
“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 recognise the false picture of the company that is being painted.
“If we didn’t care about fighting harmful content, then why would we employ so many more people dedicated to this than any other company in our space, even ones larger than us?
“If we wanted to hide our results, why would we have established an industry-leading standard for transparency and reporting on what we’re doing?
“And if social media were as responsible for polarising society as some people claim, then why are we seeing polarisation increase in the US while it stays flat or declines in many countries with just as heavy use of social media around the world?”
Zuckerberg said the profit-over-people accusation “didn’t make sense” in the wake of changes that meant Facebook users saw fewer viral videos and more content from friends and family.
“The argument that we deliberately push content that makes people angry for profit is deeply illogical,” he wrote.
“We make money from ads, and advertisers consistently tell us they don’t want their ads next to harmful or angry content.
“And I don’t know any tech company that sets out to build products that make people angry or depressed.
“The moral, business and product incentives all point in the opposite direction.”
‘I don’t know any tech company that sets out to build products that make people angry or depressed.’
Finally, Zuckerberg said research had found most teenagers felt Facebook and Instagram were helpful, not harmful, tools that helped them feel less alone.
“The research actually demonstrated that many teens we heard from feel that using Instagram helps them when they are struggling with the kinds of hard moments and issues teenagers have always faced,” he wrote.
“If we’re going to have an informed conversation about the effects of social media on young people, it’s important to start with a full picture.
“We’re committed to doing more research ourselves and making more research publicly available.”
Haugen said Facebook’s recent outage meant that “for more than five hours (it) wasn’t used to deepen divides, destabilise democracies and make young girls and women feel bad about their bodies.”
She said believed Zuckerberg never set out to make a “hateful” platform.
“But he has allowed choices to be made where the side effects of those choices are that hateful and polarising content gets more distribution and more reach,” she said.
– with NBC
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