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Zuckerberg wants to discredit whistleblowers

Facebook boss Zuckerberg rejects the allegations of his ex-employee Haugen. The “good work” is misrepresented.

In view of the harsh allegations against his IT group, Facebook boss Mark Zuckerburg accuses a former employee of misrepresentation. The current reporting “distorts our work and our motives,” wrote Zuckerberg in a lengthy post on his Facebook page. Contrary to what whistleblower Francis Haugen claims, the company does not put its profits above the safety and well-being of users. “That’s not true,” wrote the Facebook founder.

The argument that Facebook deliberately disseminates content in order to make people angry out of the pursuit of profit is “extremely illogical”. Because the advertisers did not want an environment with harmful or aggressive content for their advertisements. However, critics of social media from Silicon Valley accuse providers such as Facebook or Youtube of deliberately suggesting content to users that emotionalises them. In doing so, the platforms wanted to generate more interactions and increase the length of time users stayed.

Zuckerberg: Instagram helps young people

Zuckerberg also denied allegations that Facebook learned from internal studies that Instagram is damaging the mental health of some teenagers and is not taking consistent action against it. He referred to a post by the company, according to which internal research has shown that Instagram generally helps young people deal with their problems. That affects eleven out of twelve areas. Only with body awareness would Instagram make the girls feel worse.

He conceded, “But when it comes to the health or well-being of young people, every negative experience matters.” It is “incredibly sad to think of a young person in a moment of need who has a worse experience instead of being cheered up”. His company has made “industry-leading efforts to help such people,” said Zuckerberg, without giving any examples of what the efforts should be.

In his view, the revelations do not encourage companies to conduct internal corporate research at all: 

“It is disheartening to see this work being taken out of context and used to construct a false narrative that we don’t care.” 

When organizations are attacked that are trying to investigate their impact on the world, the message is sent: 

“It is safer not to look if something is found that can then be blamed.”

With this, Zuckerberg indirectly confirms the whistleblower’s demands. According to Haugen, basically, nobody outside of Facebook knows what is happening inside the company. The group withheld the required information from the public and governments around the world. “Legislative action is required, they will not solve this crisis without your help,” said the 37-year-old in a US Senate hearing on Tuesday. “We cannot allow ourselves anything other than full transparency,” she demanded.

Haugen was on Facebook for around two years, previously with Google as well as the photo platform Pinterest and the rating platform Yelp. As a product manager, she specializes in algorithm-based products such as recommendation systems, such as those used in Facebook’s news feed. The problems associated with this are complex, but Facebook has made disastrous decisions affecting children, public safety, privacy and democracy. “Therefore we have to demand changes from Facebook,” Haugen demanded in the US Congress.

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