Whistleblower: Facebook is misleading the public, chooses profits over safety

FILE – In this March 29, 2018, file photo, the logo for Facebook appears on screens at the Nasdaq MarketSite in New York’s Times Square. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

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UPDATED 9:38 AM PT – Monday, October 4, 2021

“If they change the algorithm to be safer, people will spend less time on the site, they’ll click on less ads, they’ll make less money.”

— Frances Haugen, former Facebook misinformation manager

The latest Facebook whistleblower claimed the tech giant was lying to investors about its safety standards and also suggested it was prioritizing profit over ensuring public safety.

In an interview Sunday, former Facebook misinformation manager Frances Haugen said the company has repeatedly violated safety standards to maximize its profits. She said Facebook took action on less than five percent of cases of hate speech and violence while telling investors it’s seriously battling those risks.

Haugen claimed to have filed eight complaints with the SEC over Facebook’s lies. She even said she has tens of thousands of pages of documents to prove her case.

“The thing I saw at Facebook, over and over again, was there were conflicts of interest between what was good for the public and what was good for Facebook,’ she stated. “And Facebook, over and over again, chose to optimize for its own interests like making more money. I’ve seen a bunch of social networks and it was substantially worse at Facebook than anything I’d seen before. ”

Moreover, she said the root of the company’s problem is in a change it made in 2018 to the site’s algorithm designed to show users content they are most likely to engage with.

“And one of the consequences of how Facebook is picking out that content today is that they are optimizing the content that gets engagement, a reaction, but it’s own research is showing that content that is hateful, that is divisive, that is polarizing…it’s easier to inspire people to anger than it is to other emotions,” she explained.

Haugen said misinformation and hateful content is what keeps people engaged and the company booming. She added, although Facebook recognizes that, if they were to switch up and secure its content displayed then they would lose profit.

“Facebook makes more money when you consume more content,” she stated. “People enjoy engaging with things that illicit an emotional reaction and the more anger they get exposed to, the more they interact and the more they consume.”

However, Facebook is defending its safety policies by saying its job is to “mitigate the bad and amplify the good.” Meanwhile, Haugen is set to testify before the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection on Tuesday.

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