It was a bad night for Facebook.
On an episode of 60 Minutes that aired Sunday night, Frances Haugen revealed that she was the source of leaked documents used by the Wall Street Journal in its explosive “Facebook Files” series.
She was formerly a product manager on the company’s civic integrity team, which focused on election issues, and worked at several Silicon Valley companies in the past, including Pinterest and Google. In December 2020, shortly before the Jan. 6 riots, Facebook dissolved her team. Haugen quit her job at Facebook in April and reached out to Whistleblower Aid, reported the Journal in a story published Sunday. The nonprofit says it provides legal aid to “individuals who, lawfully, report government and corporate law breaking.”
On 60 Minutes, she described how Facebook put growth above social responsibility, calling the situation “substantially worse” than at other social media companies.
She also told 60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley that she found it “horrifying” what “Facebook is in other countries.”
“The thing I want everyone to know is Facebook is far, far more dangerous than anyone knows, and it is getting worse.”
In markets outside of the United States, she said, “each new language costs more money, but there’s fewer and fewer customers.” Essentially, Facebook gets less for its money when it trains moderators and AI in smaller countries with fewer users. So instead of building expensive infrastructure, Haugen said, Facebook lets misinformation spread.
“In other parts of the world, that misinformation is directly leading to people dying,” she said.
In a statement to 60 Minutes, Facebook said it continues “to make significant improvements to tackle the spread of misinformation and harmful content. To suggest we encourage bad content and do nothing is just not true.”
Haugen told the Journal that the team tasked with fighting forced prostitution and slavery at Facebook consisted of only a few investigators.
“I would ask why more people weren’t being hired,” she told the Journal. “Facebook acted like it was powerless to staff these teams.”
A report published last year by NYU’s Stern Center for Business and Human Rights recommended Facebook double its number of moderators to effectively fight hate speech and misinformation, and make them all full-time employees, instead of using contractors.
The situation at the company isn’t improving, Haugen said on an episode of The Journal podcast, which also went live on Sunday.
“The thing I want everyone to know is Facebook is far, far more dangerous than anyone knows,” she said, “and it is getting worse.”