Frances Haugen, a former product manager on Facebook’s civic misinformation team, appeared before the Joint Committee this afternoon, discussing plans to regulate social media companies.
The whistleblower commented that the social network saw safety as a cost centre, and was “unquestionably” making hate worse.
In essence, she believes that Facebook will fuel more episodes of violent unrest around the world because of the way its algorithms are designed to promote divisive content.
“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,” she said.
As well as this, Haugen saw that Facebook “lionised a start-up culture”, where cutting corners was a good thing and there was no process of reporting that could bring about meaningful change.
Haugen said the algorithms pushed users towards the extreme. “So someone centre left, they’ll be pushed to radical left, someone centre right will be pushed to the radical right,” she said.
Her evidence will inform the Committee’s work in shaping the Online Safety Bill, a piece of legislation aimed at regulating social media due to be put before Parliament for approval in 2022.