Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has refuted claims made by former Facebook product manager turned whistleblower Frances Haugen, in a testimony to the US Senate on Capitol Hill yesterday. In the testimony, Haugen described the company as “morally bankrupt” and said it intentionally targets children under the age of 13. She also put forward proposals for ways in which the company could be regulated, telling senators: “The fact that Facebook is so scared of even basic transparency, that it goes out of its way to block researchers who are asking awkward questions, shows the need for Congressional oversight.”
Senator Ed Markey said Congress would be taking action. “Facebook is like Big Tobacco, enticing young kids with that first cigarette,” said Markey, adding: “We will not allow your company to harm our children and out families and our democracy any longer.”
In response, Zuckerberg shared in a Facebook post a note he had written to all employees. Without referring to Haugen by name – he simply referenced “today’s testimony” – Zuckerberg said the company cared deeply about issues like safety, well-being and mental health and wrote: “It's difficult to see coverage that misrepresents our work and our motives. At the most basic level, I think most of us just don't recognize the false picture of the company that is being painted.”
He said many of the claims don't make any sense, and wrote: “At the heart of these accusations is this idea that we prioritize profit over safety and well-being. That's just not true.”
He reiterated previous claims that Facebook’s own research into how Instagram affects young people had been mischaracterised, writing: “We have an industry-leading research program so that we can identify important issues and work on them. It's disheartening to see that work taken out of context and used to construct a false narrative that we don't care,” He also said he would welcome updated internet regulations, writing: “at some level the right body to assess tradeoffs between social equities is our democratically elected Congress.”
One reply to the post from Akemi Sue Fisher said, in capital letters: “Can we get this post fact checked please??”
Zuckerberg’s post also referred to Monday’s outage, as he claimed lost revenues were not the issue. “The deeper concern with an outage like this isn't how many people switch to competitive services or how much money we lose, but what it means for the people who rely on our services to communicate with loved ones, run their businesses, or support their communities,” he wrote.
Despite Zuckerberg’s protestations, some form of regulatory action against Facebook now looks more possible than ever. If the CEO is going to carry on referring to “the testimony” he might have to clarify which one.