Facebook whistleblower accuses company of 'tearing our societies apart'

The whistleblower said the company put profit ahead of the public good

Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen took aim at her former employer, accusing the social media giant of "tearing our societies apart" in an interview with CBS' 60 Minutes.

"The version of Facebook that exists today is tearing our societies apart and causing ethnic violence around the world," Haugen told 60 Minutes Sunday.

Haugen accused the company of placing profit above the good for the public, despite assurances from Facebook leadership that the company was working to make the platform safe.


"There were conflicts of interest between what was good for the public and what was good for Facebook. And Facebook, over and over again, chose to optimize for its own interests, like making more money," Haugen said.

Haugen's interview comes after she collected documents and blew the whistle on Facebook to the Wall Street Journal, which then published a series of reports on the files that revealed previously unknown details about the inner workings of the social media company.

Documents revealed that Facebook's own internal research showed that the company knew some of its products were harming the mental health of some of its users, most notably teen girls.


"Facebook's own research says, as these young women begin to consume this eating disorder content, they get more and more depressed. And it actually makes them use [Instagram] more," Haugen said.

Haugen said that Facebook placed profit above the well-being of those harmed.

"Facebook has realized that 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," she said. "Facebook, over and over again, has shown it chooses profit over safety."

Haugen, a data scientist with a computer engineering degree and a Harvard MBA, said she took the job at Facebook in order to combat misinformation after losing a friend to online conspiracy theories. But although she admits that the company took some steps to combat misinformation during the 2020 election, many of those policies were only temporary.

The whistleblower believes that the federal government should now act to regulate the company, an idea that has gained more traction among lawmakers in the wake of the story.

Just last week, Sen. Josh Hawley introduced legislation with the aim of holding social media companies accountable for harm they cause.


"Like Big Tobacco before it, Big Tech pushes products it knows are harmful," a spokesperson for Hawley said in a release explaining the legislation. "At a Senate hearing last week, a Facebook representative would not even say, in response to questioning by Senator Hawley, that using Instagram is safe. Social media companies should not be allowed to continue profiting from exploiting children."

In a statement responding to the 60 Minutes interview, Facebook said they "continue 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."