Frances Haugen to testify before MPs about Facebook and online damage | Facebook


Facebook’s whistleblower is due to testify to lawmakers and peers reviewing the online safety bill, amid calls for a strengthening of historic legislation.

Frances Haugen sparked a deep crisis in Mark Zuckerberg’s social media empire after she released tens of thousands of internal documents detailing the company’s failure to protect its users from harmful content. On Monday, Haugen, 37, will testify in person before the Joint Committee reviewing the Online Safety Bill, a bill that places a duty of care on social media companies to protect users – with the threatens substantial fines if they fail to do so. so.

Speaking to the Observer ahead of the hearing, Haugen said Zuckerberg, founder, chief executive and majority shareholder of Facebook, had shown no willingness to protect the public from the damage caused by his business.

“At the moment, Marc [Zuckerberg] is irresponsible. He’s in control. He has no oversight and has failed to demonstrate that he is willing to run the business to the level necessary for public safety. “

The online safety bill was finalized last week after the murder of Conservative MP David Amess. Keir Starmer, the Labor leader, has demanded criminal penalties for bosses of digital platforms that do not crack down on extremism, prompting Boris Johnson to promise “tough sentences for those responsible for letting this filthy content permeate the internet” .

However, government sources later hit back on the matter. The government is keeping in reserve the possibility of introducing criminal sanctions for executives who do not cooperate adequately with Ofcom, the communications regulator implementing the bill. Johnson has also pledged to expedite the processing of the invoice.

Earlier this month, Haugen told U.S. Senators in Washington that Facebook was putting “astronomical profits before people” as she was asked about a mine of documents that showed Facebook knew its photo-sharing app Instagram harmed adolescent mental health and that its eponymous platform was being used. incite ethnic violence in Ethiopia.

Damian Collins, Conservative MP and Chairman of the Joint Committee, said: “Frances Haugen’s testimony so far has made it even clearer that regulatory oversight of social media platforms, by a democratically elected government, is needed at all times. emergency. She will bring valuable expertise to the review process, especially since the bill is expected to allow Ofcom to access and act on internal research and concerns. “

A new wave of disclosures this weekend from a group of U.S. news publications showed Facebook struggling to contain right-wing disinformation on its platform as the insurgency looms in Washington on January 6 and had been used to spread religious hatred in India. More stories based on the documents are expected from a larger consortium on Monday.

The joint committee also heard calls from witnesses for elements of the bill to be toughened. Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said Ofcom should be given audit powers to check the inner workings of tech companies, including the algorithms that help tailor the content a user consumes. Haugen is due to speak at 2 p.m.

Child protection activists have also called for the bill to include stricter guarantees for children and criminal penalties for leaders who know their platforms are putting young people at risk and failing to act.

On Sunday, the BBC broadcast a meeting between Haugen and the father of Molly Russell, a 14-year-old British schoolgirl who committed suicide in 2017 and viewed content on social media – including her Instagram account – linked to the anxiety, depression, self-harm and suicide before his death. Ian Russell told Haugen: “I look at a huge company with massive resources and say ‘you have to do more’.”

The Online Safety Bill covers tech companies that allow users to post their own content or interact with each other, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and YouTube. Search engines like Google will also be included as well as commercial porn sites like OnlyFans and video games that allow users to talk to each other.

Facebook vice president of content policy Monika Bickert said on Sunday that the tech industry “needs regulation” because it shouldn’t be left to fend for itself to set the rules on issues such as harmful online content.

“The UK is one of the leading countries with far-reaching proposals on everything from hate speech to child safety and while we don’t agree with all the details we are thrilled let the online security bill move forward, ”she wrote in the Sunday Telegraph.

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