Facebook will fuel further unrest, whistleblower Frances Haugen says

Bengaluru: Facebook will fuel more violent unrest around the world unless it stops its algorithms pushing extreme and divisive content, whistleblower Frances Haugen told the British parliament on Monday.

The former employee, who accused the social media giant of putting profit before people at a US Senate subcommittee earlier in the month, said with a focus on the US Facebook was wilfully blind to its impact in many markets where a lack of local-language staff meant it often failed to understand the toxic or dangerous nature of messages on its platform.

“The events we’re seeing around the world, things like Myanmar and Ethiopia, those are the opening chapters because engagement-based ranking does two things: one, it prioritises and amplifies divisive and polarising extreme content and two it concentrates it,” Haugen said.

Facebook allegedly lacks adequate ability to flag questionable content in India’s two most spoken languages—Hindi and Bengali—according to internal company documents cited by Haugen. The company has disputed this saying it uses technology to proactively detect hate speech in the two languages as well as have reviewers flagging such content in 20 Indian languages.

On Monday, Haugen added Facebook saw online safety as a cost and “unquestionably” it is making hate worse.

Haugen told a Senate Commerce subcommittee hearing that Facebook had devised ways to keep users scrolling even if it was detrimental to their wellbeing.


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