Facebook capitalizes on hate so nothing will change, says whistleblower Francis Haugen.

Facebook’s business model encourages hate speech, damages democracy, and even “tears our society apart,” said a former product manager for the company’s civil disinformation group.

Frances Haugen, who left Facebook in May this year, was a whistleblower who leaked information about the company’s internal research, including Instagram’s impact on the mental health of teenage girls. Wall Street Journal last month.

Speaking with American broadcaster CBS On Sunday, Haugen said her experience at Facebook has shown the company prioritizes growth over improving the security of its product.

“I saw over and over again the conflict of interest between what was good for the public and what was good for Facebook,” Haugen said on CBS’s 60 Minutes.

“Facebook has opted over and over to optimize for its own interests, like making more money,” she said.

“Betrayal of Democracy”

Haugen joined Facebook in June 2019, working as part of a team tasked with fighting election misinformation.

Ahead of the November 2020 US Presidential Election Facebook announced a number of measures it said it would help voters get accurate information and reduce “risks of post-election confusion”.

However, the team disbanded shortly after the election.

Haugen stated that Facebook then reversed many of the measures it had taken to limit the spread of misinformation.

“Once the election was over, they turned it off or set it back to what it was before to make growth more important than security,” Haugen said.

“And it really seems to me a betrayal of democracy.”

Capitol riot ‘not our fault’, writes Facebook

In an interview Sunday, Haugen drew a connection between Facebook and the riots at the US Capitol on January 6, when supporters of former President Donald Trump stormed the US Legislature.

She said she did not trust the company to “invest in what really needs to be invested so that Facebook is not dangerous.”

Speaking ahead of the broadcast of Haugen’s interview, Facebook vice president of politics and global affairs Nick Clegg told CNN that the company does not acknowledge that it has been a major contributor to political polarization in the US.

“The uprising that day is directly related to the people who committed violence and those who encouraged it, including President Trump,” Clegg said, adding that blaming social media was “ridiculous.”

“I think this gives people false confidence, suggesting that there must be a technological or technical explanation for the problems of political polarization in the United States … It’s too easy to say that this is Facebook’s fault.”

Inability to fight hate

According to Facebook documents provided to CBS by Haugen, the company is aware of both the spread of hate speech on its platforms and how complex the problem is.

“We estimate that we can only take action on 3-5 percent of hate and ~0.6 percent of V&I. [Violence and Incitement] on Facebook despite being the best in the world at it,” one internal report says.

“We have data from various sources that hate speech, divisive political speech and misinformation on Facebook and the app family are impacting society around the world,” said another.

Addressing Facebook’s hate speech may require more than stricter content moderation and stricter rules, Haugen said.

“It’s easier to provoke anger”

Haugen told CBS that a change in 2018 to the algorithm that decides which pieces of content will be shown to users inadvertently exposed Facebook users to information that was more likely to elicit an angry reaction.

“[Facebook] optimizes content that causes engagement, reaction,” she said.

“But his own research shows that hateful content is divisive, polarizes people, inspires anger more easily than other emotions.”

Haugen argued that the company did not want to change the algorithm as it could affect the profits of the business.

“Facebook realized that if we changed the algorithm to a more secure one, people would spend less time on the site, click on ads less and earn less,” she said.

Despite the severity of the allegations she leveled at the company, Haugen said she sympathized with Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

“No one on Facebook is malicious, but the incentives don’t match,” she said.

“Facebook makes more money when you consume more content. People enjoy doing things that trigger an emotional response, and the more anger they experience, the more they interact and the more they consume.”