Facebook Whistleblower Sheds Light on Dangers of Social Media

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A Facebook whistleblower is back home in the Bay Area after being an honored guest at President Joe Biden’s first State of the Union Address.

Frances Haugen said it was a huge honor to be invited and have the White House raise up the issue of safety on social media.

And maybe also muster support for the Kids Online Safety Act.

On Thursday, she told a group in Palo Alto that it’s time for social media platforms to open their books and prove they’re putting their money where their mouths are. 

“We have a really unique opportunity to begin collaborating on a bipartisan way to make sure that kids are safe online,” said Haugen.

The act would force social media platforms to create tools for parents and kids under 16 that they could use to protect their information and limit screen time.

“Kids say over and over again, ‘I know this is making me feel bad. I can’t stop, and if I leave, I’ll be ostracized,’” said Haugen. 

She testified before Congress and turned over Facebook data to federal investigators last year and told students they have the power to force needed changes when they decide where to work or whether to become big tech whistleblowers themselves.       

“Because I don’t want to just be a cog in this machine where I don’t have a say in the policies that are happening,” said Stanford student Elizabeth Hzu.

“Holding these big companies to account is very important in order to prevent these major mental issues or body image issues for sure,” said Jacob Lay, Sacramento State student.

Another question was how to address widespread misinformation campaigns like the one being waged by Russia as it tries to justify its war on Ukraine.

“They do that to make us doubt ourselves, to exploit our weaknesses and to pull us apart,” said Haugen.

She said when she worked on counter-espionage and misinformation at Facebook, her team could only address about a third of the cases they knew about because they were severely understaffed.             

Haugen said at a bare minimum, online platforms need to be transparent about their investments and their results on both fronts. Protecting kids and protecting everyone from the influence of widespread lies.

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