Speed Reads

Facebook Follies

Facebook whistleblower tells 60 Minutes her ex-employer isn't 'malevolent' but is definitely destroying societies

Most of the negative stories you might have read about Facebook in the past few weeks, notably in The Wall Street Journal, stem from internal documents copied by Frances Haugen. Haugen, a 37-year-old data scientist, stepped forward on Sunday's 60 Minutes, explaining that she left the $1 trillion social network in May after determining that Facebook is doing serious damage to civic societies, knows it is doing significant damage, and chooses to continue doing this damage for financial gain.

"The thing I saw at Facebook over and over again was there were conflicts of interest between what was good for the public and what was good for Facebook," Haugen told Scott Pelley. "And Facebook, over and over again, chose to optimize for its own interests, like making more money." 

Haugen explained that she was hired to work in Facebook's Civic Integrity unit, which works to diminish misinformation and election risks — until Facebook dissolved the unit after the 2020 election. "Fast forward a couple months, we got the insurrection," she said. Facebook had also turned on safety systems leading up to the election, but "as soon as the election was over, they turned them back off or they changed the settings back to what they were before, to prioritize growth over safety."

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

"No one at Facebook is malevolent, but the incentives are misaligned," Haugen said. CEO Mark Zuckerberg "never set out to make a hateful platform," but his choices mean "hateful, polarizing content gets more distribution and more reach." Facebook told 60 Minutes it continues to "make significant improvements to tackle the spread of misinformation and harmful content," and "to suggest we encourage bad content and do nothing is just not true."

Haugen also elaborated on how the Civic Integrity unit worked and suggested Zuckerberg declare "moral bankruptcy." 

And she shared a "joke" her team would tell about how if you want to know which country will be in crisis next, look where Facebook bought a foothold two years earlier. And, she added, people are dying because of Facebook's choices.