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Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen gives evidence to MPs scrutinizing online security law

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Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen today accused Facebook of “dancing with data” about how much hate speech is being removed, while telling MPs that only “three to five percent” are removed.

Ms Haugen is appearing before a parliamentary committee investigating the government’s online security law, which would impose a duty of care on social media companies to protect users – threatening substantial fines of up to 10% of their global revenues if they fail to do so.

Today, Ms Haugen said that Facebook is “very good at dancing with data” and that its algorithms helped “prioritise extreme content.”

She opened the session and said, “I am extremely, extremely concerned about the state of our societies. I’m very concerned about the engagement-based ranking, where extreme content is paramount.’

Ms Haugen also said she was “deeply concerned” about Facebook’s underinvestment in non-English languages. “I’m very concerned about their underinvestment in non-English languages ​​and how they mislead the public in the way they support them,” she said.

‘British English is so different that I wouldn’t be surprised if the security systems they’ve developed mainly for American English were really underpowered in the UK. Facebook should reveal those dialectical differences.”

The former employee of Facebook’s integrity unit stirred up Mark Zuckerberg’s behemoth earlier this month by giving details of internal documents she secretly copied to reveal the danger she says the company poses of offering a platform for groomers to incite political violence and foment misinformation.

Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen appears before a parliamentary committee examining the government’s draft legislation to tackle harmful online content

In an interview with MPs, Ms Haugen likened Facebook disruptions to an oil spill.

“I have come forward now because this is the most critical moment to act,” she told the select committee.

“If we see something like an oil spill, that oil spill doesn’t make it more difficult for a society to regulate oil companies.

“But right now, Facebook’s failures are making it harder for us to regulate Facebook.”

The whistleblower said she had “no doubt” that events such as the storming of the US Capitol would happen in the future because of Facebook’s ranking system that prioritizes incendiary content.

She said the problem could get worse as the social media giant prioritizes creating large Facebook groups so that people spend more time on the network.

“Facebook has been trying to get people to spend more time on Facebook, and the only way they can do that is by multiplying the content that already exists on the platform with things like groups and re-sharing,” she said.

“One group may produce hundreds of pieces of content a day, but only three are delivered. Only those who spread the most go out.’

Ms Haugen said Facebook groups are increasingly acting as “echo chambers” pushing people toward more extreme beliefs.

“You see a normalization of hatred and dehumanization of others, and that leads to violent incidents,” she said.

Ministers fear social media regulation plans could be leaked to Facebook by officials ‘wanting to get job at tech giant’

By David Wilcock, Whitehall Correspondent for MailOnline

Ministers fear plans for more regulation of social media sites could be leaked by officials to former mandarins now working for Facebook.

The alarm was raised after a senior Facebook executive at a recent meeting raised an issue related to online harm that was only known to a few people at the Ministry of Digital, Culture, Media and Sports.

Mark Zuckerberg’s social media giant is under increasing pressure over misinformation and harmful material, including abuse, being shared by its users, with ministers drawing up plans for tougher regulations.

Jobs of former top private sector officials are planned to be examined by the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba). But his powers are weak and more junior appointments are not vetted.

A source lashed out at the mandarins department, telling the Times: “The problem is DCMS officials think their job is to work there for four years and then get a job at Facebook.

“They are not investigated by Acoba, except at the highest level.”

Civil servants in DCMS are among the higher paid mandarins. Average wages were just under £50,000 last year, compared to a median in Whitehall of less than £30,000, according to the Institute for Government.

The average pay for the Civil Service is around £30,000, but in the UK arm of Facebook in 2019 it was over £117,000.

Several DCMS officials recently started working for Facebook, having worked elsewhere before joining Facebook. There is no suggestion that they have obtained information from former Civil Service colleagues.

Nicola Aitken, who previously ‘led the UK government’s efforts to fight disinformation’, now works there as a disinformation policy manager, after a one-year hiatus at Full Fact, an independent organization that promotes disinformation online.

And Farzana Dudhwala has been Facebook’s privacy policy manager since January, following a year in 2018-9 at DCMS’s Government Office for Artificial Intelligence and then two years at the Center for Data Ethics and Innovation.

The whistleblower argued that regulation could benefit Facebook in the long run by making it a “more pleasant” place.

She added that Twitter and Google were “much more transparent” than Facebook when she called on Mr. Zuckerberg to hire 10,000 additional engineers to work on security instead of 10,000 engineers to build the new “metaverse” initiative. .

Ms. Haugen first made her stellar revelations before the US Senate earlier this month, arguing that a federal regulator is needed to oversee digital giants like Facebook.

The draft online safety law proposes something similar by creating a regulator to monitor Big Tech’s progress in removing harmful or illegal content from their platforms, such as terrorist material or child sexual abuse images.

The ministers also want social media companies to counter online abuse by anonymous trolls.

Damian Collins, chair of the joint committee drafting an online safety bill, called Ms Haugen’s performance “a pretty big moment.”

“This is a moment, a bit like Cambridge Analytica, but possibly bigger because I think it gives a real insight into the soul of these companies,” he said.

Collins was referring to the 2018 debacle involving data mining company Cambridge Analytica, which collected data on as many as 87 million Facebook users without their consent.

The commission has already heard of another Facebook whistleblower, Sophie Zhang, who raised the alarm after finding evidence of online political manipulation in countries like Honduras and Azerbaijan before she was fired.

Concerns have been raised that details of the new legislation could be leaked to Facebook by officials who want to “work for the government for four years before landing a job with tech giants.”

The alarm was raised after a senior Facebook executive at a recent meeting raised an issue related to online harm that was only known to a few people at the Ministry of Digital, Culture, Media and Sports.

Jobs of former top private sector officials are planned to be examined by the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba). But his powers are weak and more junior appointments are not vetted.

A source lashed out at the mandarins department, telling the Times: “The problem is DCMS officials think their job is to work there for four years and then get a job at Facebook.

“They are not investigated by Acoba, except at the highest level.”

Several DCMS officials recently started working for Facebook, having worked elsewhere before joining Facebook.

There is no suggestion that they have obtained information from former Civil Service colleagues.

Miss Haugen testified on the same day that Facebook is expected to announce its latest earnings.  Pictured is the CEO Mark Zuckerberg

Miss Haugen testified on the same day that Facebook is expected to announce its latest earnings. Pictured is the CEO Mark Zuckerberg

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