independent– The whistleblower behind a major leak of internal documents at Facebook says the social media giant has always prioritised its own profits over the public good.
Frances Haugen, a data scientist and a former product manager on Facebook’s civic misinformation team, revealed herself in a 60 Minutes interview on Sunday as the woman who anonymously leaked documents of the company’s research to The Wall Street Journal and the US Congress.
Ms Haugen said the leaks showed how Facebook magnifies hate and misinformation by prioritising profits.
“The thing I saw at Facebook over and over again was there were conflicts of interest between what was good for the public and what was good for Facebook,” Ms Haugen told host Scott Pelley.
“And Facebook, over and over again, chose to optimise for its own interests, like making more money,” she added.
Ms Haugen said while she had worked at a number of companies, including Google and Pinterest, “it was substantially worse at Facebook” because of the social media giant’s desire to put its profits over the welfare of its users.
Facebook’s main problem was a change the company made in 2018 to its algorithms, which decide what users see on the platform’s news feed, according to the data scientist and whistleblower.
“You might see only 100 pieces of content if you sit and scroll on for, you know, five minutes,” Ms Haugen said, adding that Facebook’s algorithms choose these pieces from thousands of options it could show users.
She said the algorithms are optimised for content that gets engagement – or reactions – from users.