Facebook whistleblower to testify in hearing targeting Big Tech’s legal immunity

Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen again called on lawmakers to hold her former employer accountable ahead of her testimony before the House Commerce Committee on Wednesday.

During Big Tech’s “legal immunity” hearing, the former Facebook employee is expected to testify about how the social media giant, now called Meta, has put revenue before the safety of its users.

Haugen says in prepared testimony for the Communications and Technology Subcommittee.

The hearing is expected to focus on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a controversial law that gives websites broad protections from legal liability for third-party content posted on their sites.

Former Facebook data scientist Frances Hogan speaks during a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee hearing on consumer protection, product safety, and data security, on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, October 5, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

In her testimony before the hearing, Haugen took aim at accusations by Facebook’s leadership that she misunderstood the meaning of the hundreds of thousands of documents she went through before she left the social media giant.

Facebook executives said the documents and studies, which indicate that apps like Instagram have a negative impact on the mental health of some teenage girls, were for internal use only, and should not be interpreted as factual findings. However, Haugen said that her work at Google (GOOG and GOOGL), Pinterest (PINS) Yelp (YELP), and Facebook gives her insight into Facebook’s issues.

“Working for four major tech companies running different types of social networks has given me perspective to compare and contrast how each company approaches and deals with different challenges,” Haugen wrote in her testimony.

“The choices that Facebook’s leadership makes are a huge problem – for our children, our communities, our democracy – and that is why I come forward. And let’s be clear: It doesn’t have to be this way. They can make a different choice.”

Haugen — who also testified before Congress in October — contacted the Wall Street Journal with documents it took from Facebook, leading to a series of explosive reports that showed Facebook knew its platform was being used by drug cartels and human traffickers.

Lawmakers were particularly concerned about the potential impact of Meta Facebook and Instagram on younger users. The proposed Instagram app for children, which was to be launched for children under the age of 13, sparked widespread backlash, prompting the company to suspend the project.

Haugen’s testimony comes a week before Instagram chief Adam Mosseri is set to testify before the Senate Commerce Committee about the app and how it affects its younger users.

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