CNN’s John Berman reported this morning about a Facebook whistleblower who appeared on 60 Minutes last night.
“In an explosive interview on 60 Minutes, a former Facebook product manager released tens of thousands of pages of documents she says proves the company allowed the spread of content designed to push hate, anger, and misinformation, and did it to make a profit,” he said.
One of the consequences of how Facebook is picking out that content today is, it is optimizing for content that gets engagement or reaction. But its own research is showing the content that is hateful, divisive, polarizing, it is easier to inspire people to anger than other emotions. Facebook has realized that if they change the algorithm to be safer, people will spend less time on the site, click on less ads, they will make less money.
“Haugen accuses them of helping to fuel the Capitol insurrection,” Berman said.
They told us we’re dissolving Civic Integrity. Like, they basically said, oh good, we made it through the election, there wasn’t riots. We can get rid of Civic Integrity. They’re not willing to invest what needs to be invested to keep Facebook safe. They changed it back to prioritize growth over safety. That feels like a betrayal of democracy to me.
“Joining us now to talk more about this is CNN correspondent Donie O’Sullivan. She is talking there about changing the settings. That is the algorithm. She said they changed the unit, Civic Integrity, designed to try to combat this assault on democracy, even though the threat wasn’t gone. And this algorithm, this boogeyman really is a boogeyman,” Brianna Keilar said.
“Unfortunately, what I think is her reason for coming forward, which is she lost somebody close to her of a rabbit hole of misinformation,” O’Sullivan said.
“That is a story we hear play out again and again and again in the United States, loved ones going down the rabbit holes, leading them to not get the vaccine. But essentially what she is saying is sort of what folks, experts have been saying for a long time about fundamentally, the Facebook algorithm is designed to keep people on the platform longer so Facebook can make more money. The best way to do that is to feed them the sort of junk, the extreme content that will keep them there.”
“Because that is what’s good for Facebook’s bottom line, even if it’s bad for America or the world, as she puts it. She’s painting this picture where a safety mechanism put in place ahead of the election was really just a performative thing,” Keilar said.
“She’s appearing before the Senate tomorrow to testify here in Washington. And I think this really might be something that senators might dig into. What happened in the fateful weeks between the election and the insurrection. For as bad as Facebook is, for all the information that was on the platform leading up to the election, we heard about the safety mechanisms in place to downplay this more extreme content. We saw in the weeks between the election and the insurrection, the Stop The Steal movement exploded entirely on Facebook. I mean, I remember in the days immediately after the election there was a Stop the Steal Facebook group that I was refreshing it and getting hundreds of thousands of new users every few minutes. Facebook did eventually shut it down. What were they doing that they in the leadup to the election that they weren’t doing in the leadup to the insurrection is something we don’t have the answers to yet.”
You can watch the entire 60 Minutes interview here:
If you have a family member who has gone down the rabbit hole, you can check out Reddit support group Qanon Casualties for emotional support.