A tough day for Facebook… again
Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen appeared before a Senate panel Tuesday that was fired up about the recent wave of revelations about the company.
Lawmakers focused on Facebook’s own research finding Instagram made body issues worse for one in three teenage girls and the platform’s decision not to share those results.
The Senate Commerce subcommittee on Consumer Protection also touched on algorithmic amplification of dangerous content, Facebook’s approach to moderation outside of the U.S. and how to craft policy.
Here are the biggest takeaways.
Haugen emerges as a real threat to Facebook: Witnesses at the last few congressional hearings focused on Facebook have fit into two categories: employees with vested interest in promoting the company’s interests or experts without insider knowledge of the social media giant’s operations.
Haugen’s unique position as a recent former employee not speaking on behalf of the company was on full display during her testimony.
Several times during Tuesday’s hearing she was able to give clear explanations of technical terms, like meaningful social interactions or engagement-based rankings, that have gotten muddled in the past.
Zuckerberg can’t stay silent much longer: Senators said Facebook CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg should testify yet again before the committee given Haugen’s testimony.
“When it comes to what we would hear differently from Mr. Zuckerberg, we have these documents that have been turned over now, and it allows us to have a better look, so that we can do a deeper dive and be able to ask more direct questions,” Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) told reporters.
Lawmakers are fired up: Tuesday’s hearing built on the bipartisan outrage directed at Davis last week, highlighting the rare unity across the aisle especially in regards to children’s safety.
“I have rarely if ever seen the kind of unanimity on display today and Thursday. If you closed your eyes without knowing who was talking, you wouldn’t know whether it was a Republican or Democrat, you wouldn’t know what part of the country they were from. Because everywhere, red state, blue state, east and west, every part of the country has the harms that are inflicted by Facebook and Instagram,” Blumenthal said.
Next steps remain unclear: Despite the bipartisan unity on the issue, the next steps for policy were no clearer after questioning concluded.
Haugen herself identified more oversight and transparency as the solution to problems at the social media giant.
“As long as Facebook is operating in the shadows, hiding its research from public scrutiny, it is unaccountable,” she said in her opening remarks.