Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg hit back Tuesday after far-left “whistleblower” Frances Haugen testified on Capitol Hill, charging that the media has run with a “false narrative” that takes his company’s work “out of context.”
In a lengthy Facebook post following Frances Haugen’s testimony before the Senate Commerce Subcommittee, Zuckerberg strongly defended his company against the many charges alleged by Haugen, such as her assertion that the company pushes divisive discourse in pursuit of profit.
“It’s difficult to see coverage that misrepresents our work and our motives,” Zuckerberg said. “At the most basic level, I think most of us just don’t recognize the false picture of the company that is being painted.”
“Many of the claims don’t make any sense,” he continued. “If social media were as responsible for polarizing society as some people claim, then why are we seeing polarization increase in the US while it stays flat or declines in many countries with just as heavy use of social media around the world?”
“At the heart of these accusations is this idea that we prioritize profit over safety and well-being,” he continued. “That’s just not true.”
Zuckerberg cited Facebook introducing “the Meaningful Social Interactions change to News Feed,” which allowed for “fewer viral videos and more content from friends and family.”
I wanted to share a note I wrote to everyone at our company.—Hey everyone: it's been quite a week, and I wanted to…
“We did [it] knowing it would mean people spent less time on Facebook, but that research suggested it was the right thing for people’s well-being. Is that something a company focused on profits over people would do?” he asserted.
To Haugen’s point that Facebook will “deliberately push content that makes people angry for profit,” Zuckerberg called it “illogical” due to the fact that Facebook makes money from ads, which do not thrive in angry, heated environments.
“We make money from ads, and advertisers consistently tell us they don’t want their ads next to harmful or angry content,” he said. “And I don’t know any tech company that sets out to build products that make people angry or depressed. The moral, business, and product incentives all point in the opposite direction.”
During the subcommittee hearing on Tuesday, both Democrats and Republicans questioned Haugen about Facebook’s effect on children and whether or not the company implements algorithms specifically designed to keep them addicted, like Big Tobacco. On this, while Zuckerberg highlighted Facebook’s work in the area of children, he ultimately punted the issue over to Congress, arguing that democratically elected legislators should be the ones creating clear outlines for how young people should engage with the internet:
Similar to balancing other social issues, I don’t believe private companies should make all of the decisions on their own. That’s why we have advocated for updated internet regulations for several years now. I have testified in Congress multiple times and asked them to update these regulations. I’ve written op-eds outlining the areas of regulation we think are most important related to elections, harmful content, privacy, and competition.
We’re committed to doing the best work we can, but at some level the right body to assess tradeoffs between social equities is our democratically elected Congress. For example, what is the right age for teens to be able to use internet services? How should internet services verify people’s ages? And how should companies balance teens’ privacy while giving parents visibility into their activity?
If we’re going to have an informed conversation about the effects of social media on young people, it’s important to start with a full picture. We’re committed to doing more research ourselves and making more research publicly available.
In a statement following Haugen’s testimony, Facebook Director of Policy Communications Lena Pietsch blasted the former product manager, characterizing Haugen as a low-level employee who had no direct relationship with the types of issues she raised.
Today, a Senate Commerce subcommittee held a hearing with the form product manager at Facebook who worked for the company for less than two years, had no direct reports, never attended a decision-point meeting with C-level executives – and testified more than 6×2 not working on the subject matter in question.
“We don’t agree with her characterization of the many issues she testified about,” she added.
Since Haugen unmasked herself in an episode of 60 Minutes this past weekend, conservatives have highlighted her network of far-left connections, such as her enlisting the aid of anti-Trump impeachment lawyers and her previously donating to socialist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-NY) congressional campaign.