Facebook whistle-blower appealed to lawmakers to regulate the company

A former Facebook product manager who became a Washington-whistleblower gave lawmakers an unobstructed view of the workings of the world’s largest social network on Tuesday, detailing how the company deliberately considered how to keep people with children. His service.

In more than Three hours of testimony Before a Senate subcommittee, Francis Hogan, who worked on Facebook’s civil misinformation team for nearly two years until May, spoke clearly and at the level of insight provided by company officials. She said Facebook has deliberately hidden annoying research on how teens feel bad about themselves after using its products and how they are willing to use hateful content on their site to get users back.

Ms. Hogan briefed lawmakers on what other data Facebook should ask for, which could lead to proposals to regulate the Silicon Valley giant as it faces growing questions about its global reach and power.

“I am here today because I believe that Facebook’s products harm children, divide and weaken our democracy,” Ms. Hogan, 37, said during her testimony. “The company’s leadership knows how to secure Facebook and Instagram but won’t make the necessary changes.”

After several years of congressional hearings on Facebook and other major tech companies, Ms. Hogan’s appearance combined Republican and Democratic lawmakers to tackle the issue of adolescent platform damage, not just for the interior. Some senators called her testimony a “big tobacco” moment for the technology industry.

Lawmakers said Ms. Hogan’s testimony and the thousands of pages of documents she collected from the company and later leaked showed that Facebook’s top executives had misled the public and could not be trusted.

“This research is the definition of a bombshell,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut who led the hearing.

Ms. Hogan’s testimony to the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection led to several weeks of scrutiny of Facebook after she leaked thousands of pages of documents to the Wall Street Journal. Of the newspaper Coverage last month One of Facebook’s worst public relations crises since a data privacy scandal in 2018 with a consulting firm Cambridge Analytica.

On Sunday, Ms. Hogan’s identity as a whistleblower became public when she set up a personal website and appeared on “60 Minutes.”

Facebook has repeatedly pushed back the criticism, saying its research was taken out of context and misunderstood. On Tuesday, after the hearing, the company defended itself by questioning Ms. Hogan’s credibility. Facebook spokeswoman Lina Pietash said Ms Hogan had never attended a decision-making meeting with senior officials.

“We don’t agree with her description of many of the points she testified,” Ms. Petash said.

During the hearing, lawmakers broadly agreed that Facebook needed to be taken into account. He put forward various legislative proposals, including a bill that would force companies like Facebook to bring more transparency to the dissemination of misinformation and other harmful content.

“The technology has been fixed,” said Republican Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi. “American kids are obsessed with their product. There is reprehensible knowledge on the part of these big tech companies that this is true. ”

But the senators did not provide a clear way to address many of the issues raised by Ms. Hogan. Dozens of bills on data privacy and changes to the speech law have stalled in Congress. Members of the House passed several bills this year to strengthen the no-confidence motion, but the full House did not pass the bill, and its prospects in the Senate look bleak.

Ms. Hogan suggested legislation that would force companies like Facebook to open their systems to researchers to study hate speech and other harmful content.

“We can take nothing less than full transparency,” said Ms. Hogan, who said she did not believe the no-confidence motion to break Facebook would address key issues in the business model. “If left alone, Facebook will continue to choose options that go against the general interest.”

Although the hearing was titled “Online Protecting Kids,” lawmakers asked Ms. Hogan a variety of issues. He asked how Facebook escalated the dangerous speech leading to the January 6 capital riots, how misinformation about coronaviruses and vaccines spread on its services, and how misinformation contributed to ethnic violence in Ethiopia and Myanmar.

Ms. Hogan gave detailed answers and repeatedly stated that the officers were more aware of the problems they were leaving.

She also provided technical expertise on the technology behind the company’s services. She spoke about the dangers of preferring a Facebook post based on how many likes, shares and comments she generates. She compared MPal’s text-messaging platform to iMessage, in which they deliver messages in the order in which they came.

In addition to promoting harmful, over-attractive content in the United States, Facebook’s commitment-based ranking system is “literally spreading racial violence” in places like Ethiopia, she said.

Ms. Hogan criticized Facebook’s focus on technology tools to detect vaccines and other misinformation. She said Facebook relies heavily on artificial intelligence systems which it claims will probably not get 10 to 20 percent of the content.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was scolded by several senators for his decision to avoid security and privacy. Zuckerberg agreed to promote positions that generate the most engagement.

This is my message to Mark Zuckerberg: Your time is up to attack our privacy, promote toxic material, and prey on children and adolescents, ”said Edward J., a Democrat senator from Massachusetts.

Mr Blumenthal said after the hearing, “Facebook is a black box and Mark Zuckerberg is the algorithm designer in chief.”

Ms. Hogan studied electrical and computer engineering at Olin College and received a degree in business administration from Harvard. She has since worked for Silicon Valley companies including Google, Pinterest and Yelp. According to her personal website, she left Facebook almost two years after handling the counterclaim as part of a civic misinformation team.

On Facebook, Ms. Hogan said she noticed the company’s pattern of ignoring warnings of losses caused by the company’s services. The final straw came in December when the company disbanded its group, which was accused of preventing the spread of misinformation.

“It really felt like a betrayal,” Ms. Hogan said.

In addition to sharing documents with Law and The Journal, she sent some to at least five state attorney generals and the offices of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Whistleblower Aid’s lawyers, a non-profit law group representing Ms. Hogan, pressured the SEC to open an investigation into how Facebook withheld evidence affecting its financial performance.

Mr Blumenthal said after the hearing that he would ask the Federal Trade Commission and the SEC to open an investigation on Facebook for “many misleading claims” made by consumers, the public and investors. He further added that Mr. Zuckerberg should appear before Congress.

“If he disagrees in any way with anything said here, he should come forward, he is in charge,” Shri. Blumenthal said.

Contributes to reporting by Mike Isaac, Sheera Frenkel, Ryan Mack And Kevin Rouge.

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