International

Facebook whistleblower to call for regulation

By AFP

WASHINGTON: A Facebook whistleblower will urge regulation of the social media giant before US lawmakers on Tuesday, after an outage potentially affecting billions of users and highlighting the global reliance on its services.

Former Employee Frances Haugen He is set to testify on Capitol Hill after leaking internal research information to officials and The Wall Street Journal, which detailed how Facebook knew its sites could potentially pose a threat to young people’s mental health. are harmful.

She will speak before senators in less than a day after Facebook, its photo-sharing app Instagram and messaging service WhatsApp, went offline for nearly seven hours, affecting “billions of users”, according to tracker DownDetector.

Excerpts from Haugen’s testimony were leaked to US media, accusing Facebook of putting its bottom line before the safety of its users.

“Facebook has become a $1 trillion company by paying its profits with our security, which includes the safety of our children,” Haugen said in his prepared statement for a Senate hearing, quoted by Bloomberg News.

“I came forward because I recognized a frightening truth: almost no one outside of Facebook knows what happens inside Facebook. The company’s leadership retains vital information from the public, the US government, its shareholders, and governments around the world.”

In her testimony she argues for regulation of the closely scrutinized company that is woven into the daily lives of so many people.

The excerpts said, “When we realized that tobacco companies were hiding the harm it caused, the government took action. When we thought that cars with seatbelts were safe, the government took action.” “I beg you to do the same here.”

Facebook has fought hard against outrage about its practices and their impact, but this is just the latest crisis to hit the Silicon Valley giant.

US lawmakers have for years threatened to regulate Facebook and other social media platforms to stave off criticism that the tech giant tramples on privacy, provides a megaphone for dangerous misinformation and harms young people’s well-being. deliver.

After years of scathing criticism on social media, without any major legislative changes, some experts were skeptical that change was coming.

“It has to come down to the platform, it has to feel pressure from its users, it has to feel pressure from its employees,” Arizona State University professor Mark Huss told AFP.

– ‘I love Instagram’ –

Haugen, a 37-year-old data scientist from Iowa who has worked for companies including Google and Pinterest – but said in an interview with the CBS News show “60 Minutes” on Sunday that Facebook was “much worse” than it was before. .

Facebook’s vice president of policy and global affairs, Nick Clegg, insisted that its platforms are “toxic” for teens, following a tense, hours-long congressional hearing in which US lawmakers asked about its impact on the company’s mental health. I inquired. young user.

Late Monday Facebook blamed the outage on configuration changes made to routers that coordinate network traffic between its data centers.

“This disruption in network traffic had a massive impact on the way our data centers communicate, bringing our services to a halt,” Facebook’s vice president of infrastructure, Santosh Janardhan, said in a post.

In addition to the disruption to people, businesses and others dependent on the company’s tools, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg suffered a financial setback.

Fortune’s billionaire tracking website said late Monday that Zuckerberg’s personal wealth has fallen by nearly $6 billion from the first day to less than $117 billion.

Some rejoiced at Facebook’s tools being offline, but others complained to AFP that the outage had caused them problems both professionally and personally.

“I love Instagram. It’s the app I use the most, especially for my work,” said Millie Donnelly, community manager for a nonprofit.

“So professionally, it’s definitely a step back and then personally, I’m always on the app.”

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