Frances Haugen recently outed herself as the whistleblower behind several complaints filed to the federal government against Facebook regarding its part and supposed effort in the battle against toxic misinformation, violence, and hate spread on its platform. Despite Facebook’s claims that it continues to do everything in its power to combat these issues, Haugen and her lawyers have reportedly filed at least eight complaints against Facebook with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in the last month. Many of them involve the processes and philosophies on when the company combats hate and misinformation and when it does not, especially in comparison to its public image and statements.
Recently, Haugen appeared in a full-fledged interview with 60 Minutes in which she revealed herself as the former employee of Facebook that filed said complaints in September. The complaints put the internal investigations of the company in contrast with its public image in regards to policing content on Facebook. In particular, Haugen’s complaints claim the company has built to the tools to indeed combat the issue, but chooses not to use them when it comes to “profit over safety.”
Haugen’s complaints to the FTC also put Facebook’s internal investigation at contrast with its front-facing image - especially that of CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who, along with various Facebook spokespersons, has claimed the company goes above and beyond to investigate and combat misinformation. Notably, Zuckerberg was called to testify before Capitol Hill officials along with Google and Twitter CEOs back in March 2021, where he claimed Facebook was doing what it could to combat COVID-19 misinformation. He further claimed that the fault of situations like the January 6 Capitol insurrection (which was organized heavily on Facebook) fell with the people who spread the content rather than Facebook itself.
Haugen’s lawyers allege that “as a publicly traded company, Facebook is required to not lie to its investors.” And as such, it falls within SEC jurisdiction to investigate and enforce penalties if a company has lied or omitted information that could adversely affect investors.
With these complaints filed and under investigation now, it is likely not the last we have heard of Facebook’s ongoing struggle with the combat of misinformation. With that in mind, stay tuned as we continue to follow this story for further updates.