Mark Zuckerberg says ‘many’ of Facebook whistleblower’s claims ‘don’t make any sense’

Argument that Facebook pushes content that makes people angry for profit is ‘deeply illogical’, he says

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar
Wednesday 06 October 2021 16:28

Facebook whistleblower testifies before Senate

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Tuesday dismissed a whistleblower’s claims that the social media platform put profit over users’ safety as “just not true”.

“The argument that we deliberately push content that makes people angry for profit is deeply illogical. We make money from ads, and advertisers constantly tell us they don’t want their ads next to harmful or angry content,” Mr Zuckerberg wrote in a note to Facebook employees, which he then posted on his account. “Many of the claims don’t make any sense.”

The social media giant has almost three billion monthly users worldwide and was recently accused by a whistleblower of “putting profits over people” and causing division.

“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,” the Facebook chief added.

His statement came hours after whistleblower and former Facebook employee Frances Haugen testified before a Senate subcommittee on Tuesday to discuss the complaints she has made to the US Securities and Exchange Commission regarding bad practice at the social networking giant. The 37-year-old was a product manager with Facebook’s civic misinformation team.

Before leaving her job in March, Ms Haugen copied a series of internal memos and documents that have been shared by The Wall Street Journal over the past three weeks.

During the testimony, Ms Haugen accused Mr Zuckerberg of prioritising profits “despite knowing that his site was harming children and societies”. Holding Mr Zuckerberg responsible, Ms Haugen told the senators that “the buck stops with Mark. There is no one currently holding Mark accountable but himself”.

An internal Facebook research report published by the Wall Street Journal alleged that photo-sharing platform Instagram made mental health issues worse for teenagers.

Rebutting the claim, Mr Zuckerberg wrote: “When it comes to young people’s health or well-being, every negative experience matters. It is incredibly sad to think of a person in a moment of distress who, instead of being comforted, has their experience made worse. We have worked for years on industry-leading efforts to help people in these moments and I’m proud of the work we’ve done.”

Ms Haugen claimed that the company’s own internal research showed that it was causing conflicts across the world. The company also faces accusations about its destructive impact on society, which has led to, among other things, ethnic violence in Myanmar and Ethiopia.

Other leaked documents showed that Facebook was also facing a lawsuit from some of its shareholders over suspicions that the company made a $5bn (£3.7bn) payment to the US Federal Trade Commission to resolve the Cambridge Analytica data scandal to protect Mr Zuckerberg.

Amid these allegations and a six-hour-long outage on Monday, the company’s share price fell 4.9 per cent, the worst decline since the five per cent drop recorded on 9 November 2020.

Over the past few years, Facebook has been widely criticised for the quantum of misinformation that is widely circulated on the platform. The backlash has only grown following the fatal attack on the US Capitol in January and the continued prevalence of false claims regarding Covid-19 and vaccines on the platform.

In 2019, Mr Zuckerberg testified before Congress, when he appeared before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. During the testimony, he was grilled by representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez over the company’s standards for taking down political ads that contained misinformation.

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