Facebook has officially changed its relationship status with the world to ‘It’s Complicated.’ Over the past week, Frances Haugen—a former product manager for the social media behemoth—has become a household name since leaking documents about the harmful effects the company has to The Wall Street Journal, giving a scathing interview to 60 Minutes, and, on Tuesday, going scorched Earth on her former employer in front of Congress as she talked about how Facebook’s products “harm children, stoke division, and weaken our democracy.”
While Haugen isn’t really telling us something we didn’t already know, it’s one of the first times that someone with such intimate details of the company’s inner workings has spoken up to the government about the dangers that something as seemingly inconsequential as a Facebook status update or Instagram post could pose. And Facebook CEO/co-founder Mark Zuckerberg isn’t happy. Nor is he in agreement with Haugen’s take on the company or its values.
As The Verge reports, Zuckerberg posted a lengthy response to Haugen’s attacks on his public Facebook page, in which he noted that the accusations being made against the company don’t “reflect the company we know” and that Facebook “care[s] deeply about issues like safety, well-being, and mental health.” After stating that “many of the claims don’t make any sense,” and wondering why, if they wanted to ignore research data, they would “create an industry-leading research program to understand these important issues in the first place?,” Zuckerberg went on to write:
At the heart of these accusations is this idea that we prioritize profit over safety and well-being. That’s just not true. For example, one move that has been called into question is when we introduced the Meaningful Social Interactions change to News Feed. This change showed fewer viral videos and more content from friends and family—which we did knowing it would mean people spent less time on Facebook, but that research suggested it was the right thing for people’s well-being. Is that something a company focused on profits over people would do?
The argument that we deliberately push content that makes people angry for profit is deeply illogical. We make money from ads, and advertisers consistently tell us they don’t want their ads next to harmful or angry content. And I don’t know any tech company that sets out to build products that make people angry or depressed. The moral, business, and product incentives all point in the opposite direction.
It’s Zuckerberg’s first public statement about the accusations Haugen is making, ever since her identity was revealed on 60 Minutes (though something tells us Zuck already knew who was making all the noise). While there’s nothing overly surprising in his more than 1,300-word response, it doesn’t read as particularly honest. Just last month, The Wall Street Journal shared some findings from the company’s own research team, including the fact (as was included on an internal presentation slide) that Instagram (one of Facebook’s products) “make[s] body image issues worse for one in three teen girls.” (You can read more from that WSJ report here.)
You can read Zuckerberg’s full statement here.
(Via The Verge)