On Monday, Facebook and its subsidiaries Instagram and WhatsApp went dark after a router failure. There were thousands of negative headlines, millions of complaints and more than 3 billion users were forced offline. On Tuesday, the company’s week got significantly worse.
Frances Haugen, a former product manager with Facebook, testified to US senators about what she had seen in her two years there – and explained why she had decided to leak a bunch of internal documents to the Wall Street Journal. Haugen had revealed himself as the source of the leak a few days earlier. And although the content of the leak – from internal warnings about the damage done to teens by Instagram to the deal Facebook gives celebrities to leave their content unmoderated – had already led to debate over whether the company needed to reform, Haugen’s decision about coming forward, the pressure on Mark Zuckerberg escalated.
In this episode, Nosheeen Iqbal talks with Guardian’s Global Technology Editor, Dan Milmo, about what we learned from Haugen’s testimony and how harmful a week can be to Facebook. Milmo describes the challenges the company faces as it seeks to argue that the whistleblower is poorly informed or that her criticism is wrong. And he reflects on what options politicians and regulators around the world will consider when looking for ways to curb Facebook’s power, and how likely such steps are to succeed.
After Haugen spoke, Zuckerberg said her claims that the company makes a profit over people’s safety were “just not true.” In a blog post, he added: “The argument that we deliberately push content that makes people angry for profit is deeply illogical. We monetize ads, and advertisers consistently tell us they do not want their ads next to harmful or angry content. “You can read more about Zuckerberg’s defense here. And you can read an analysis of how Haugen’s testimony is likely to affect Congress’ next move here.
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