the westminster news
Published by the students of Westminster School
By Heather Zhu ’23
The Wall Street Journal Investigation has published the Facebook Files Series, drawn upon thousands of pages of inside documents and former employee interviews, condemning the company’s corruption.
Frances Haugen, who worked as the product manager in the civic-integrity team, claimed herself to be the “whistleblower” that leaked the inside documents. She later, with her lawyers, filed more than eight lawsuits and testified in a Senate hearing against Facebook, accusing the company of amplifying hatred, evoking anger and continuously choosing profit over the wellbeing of its users. “Nobody outside of Facebook knows what’s happening inside,” said Haugen during her testimony. She then reveals the “Facebook algorithm” — information and pictures seen by users are tailored based on contents that receive the most user engagement — and through the company’s own research, it has been proven that hateful, polarizing misinformation are among the most enticing for the majority of users. In other words, to optimize profit, Facebook has to promote misinformation in order to keep its users engaged and project more advertisements. Haugen also suggested that Facebook products, more specifically Instagram, are damaging the mental health of teenagers. While Facebook is aware of its negative impact on the emotional and physical wellbeing of teenagers, instead of utilizing a safer alternative, they choose to deceitfully downplay their impact to governments officials and regulatory organizations. Meanwhile Facebook claims to allow all its users to voice their opinions equally through a program known as “cross check” or “xcheck,” the documents show otherwise. Certain elites or VIPs of the company are exempted from the program and are operated secretly under different rules. Proven by ample evidence collected by Haugen during her employment at Facebook, these articles uncover the company’s irresponsible operation in exchange for profit optimization and growth.
After Haugen’s testimony, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, asserted Haugen’s notion that Facebook’s prioritization of profit over safety and wellbeing to be untrue. Zuckerberg pointed out various logical fallacies present in Haugen’s argument such as “the argument that we deliberately push content that makes people angry for profit is deeply illogical. We make money from ads, and advertisers consistently tell us they don’t want their ads next to harmful or angry content.” Further rebutting the claim that Instagram is operated to harm the mental and physical wellbeing of teenagers, Zuckerburg stated that “If we wanted to ignore research, why would we create an industry-leading research program to understand these important issues in the first place?”
As the heated debate over Facebook continues, it brings light to important questions under the rise of social media: is it a corporate’s responsibility to maintain content on social media? Will more scrupulous regulation of social media necessarily be a good thing?