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Facebook whistleblower to testify in hearing targeting Big Tech's legal immunity

·Technology Editor
·3-min read
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Facebook (FB) whistleblower Frances Haugen is again calling on lawmakers to hold her former employer to account ahead of her testimony before the House Commerce Committee on Wednesday.

During the hearing on Big Tech's "legal immunity," the former Facebook employee is expected to testify about how the social media giant, now called Meta, puts revenue before the safety of its users.

"They can change the name of the company, but unless they change the products, they will continue to damage the health and safety of our communities and threaten the integrity of our democracies,” Haugen says in prepared testimony for the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology.

The hearing is expected to focus on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a controversial law that gives websites broad protection from legal liability for third-party content posted on their sites. 

FILE - Former Facebook data scientist Frances Haugen speaks during a hearing of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security, on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021, in Washington.  Years after coming under scrutiny for contributing to ethnic and religious violence in Myanmar, internal documents viewed by The Associated Press show that Facebook continues to have problems detecting and moderating hate speech and misinformation on its platform in the Southeast Asian nation. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)
Former Facebook data scientist Frances Haugen speaks during a hearing of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security, on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

In her testimony ahead of the hearing, Haugen took aim at accusations by Facebook leadership that she mischaracterized the meaning of the hundreds of thousands of documents she swiped before she left the social media giant.

Facebook executives have said that the documents and studies, which indicate that apps like Instagram have a negative impact on the mental health of some teen girls, were meant only for internal use, and that they shouldn’t be interpreted as factual findings. However, Haugen said that her work for Google (GOOG, GOOGL), Pinterest (PINS) Yelp (YELP), and Facebook gives her insight into Facebook's issues.

“Working at four major tech companies that operate different types of social networks has given me the perspective to compare and contrast how each company approaches and deals with different challenges,” Haugen wrote in her testimony.

“The choices being made by Facebook’s leadership are a huge problem — for our children, for our communities and for our democracy — that is why I came forward. And let’s be clear: it does not have to be this way. They could make a different choice.”

Haugen — who also testified before Congress in October — initially approached The Wall Street Journal with the documents she took from Facebook, which led to a series of explosive reports that showed Facebook knew that its platform was being used by drug cartels and human traffickers.

Lawmakers have been particularly interested in the potential impact of Meta’s Facebook and Instagram on younger users. A proposed Instagram for kids, which was to be launched for children under 13, drew widespread backlash, prompting the company to put a hold on the project.

Haugen’s testimony comes a week before Instagram chief Adam Mosseri is set to testify before the Senate Commerce committee about the app and how it affects its youngest users.

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