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Facebook Whistleblower's Identity Revealed on '60 Minutes'

Frances Haugen, Facebook whistleblower, revealed her identity and spoke her mind in an interview with Scott Pelley on CBS's '60 Minutes' Sunday Oct. 3, 2021.
Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen revealed her identity in an interview with CBS's '60 Minutes' Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021. (Image credit: Robert Fortunato for CBS News/60 Minutes)

As advertised, CBS has revealed the identity of the Facebook whistleblower, who lodged a complaint with the feds last month and whose reams of internal documents has the Senate Commerce Committee up in arms over the social media platform.

In a 60 Minutes interview Sunday night (Oct. 3), former Facebook product manager Frances Haugen, who quit in May, said that the company's algorithms "amplify polarizing and hateful content" for the sake of profit, a motive partly responsible for "tearing societies apart."

Congress has already been dragging Facebook over the coals for its content moderation and ad practices, but the revelations have fanned the flames.

Haugen has worked for Google, Yelp, and Pinterest as well, but said it was "substantially worse" at Facebook.  She said the company is lying about making progress about getting hate speech and misinformation off the platform. She said Facebook is not malevolent, but their priorities are misaligned because extreme speech draws a crowd and so serves the company's interest.

Also Read: New Bill Would Make Social Media Liable for Harming Kids

Haugen‘s complaints were filed at the Securities & Exchange Commission because she said what Facebook does and says don't match up.

In a hearing last week, Senate Commerce Consumer Affairs Subcommittee Chairman Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said that Facebook was weaponizing childhood suffering.

Blumenthal had cited documents provided by the whistleblower saying that there was substantial evidence that experiences on Facebook's platforms made body dissatisfaction worse. He said that was a formal finding from Facebook employees that had been available to the highest levels of management.

The hearing‘s single witness, Antigone Davis, global head of safety for Facebook, said the research showed that many kids found that Instagram helped kids deal with serious issues. She said that teen girls who struggled with 11 of 12 issues said that Instagram helped them, not hurt them. She said that did not mean they were not concerned about the minority who said Instagram did not help, what was most important thing was what they have done with the research, which included tools to help limit time spent on their apps.

"To suggest we encourage bad content and do nothing is not true," Facebook told CBS in a statement. 

Within minutes of the broadcast, the Senate Commerce Committee issued a press release naming Haugen as the star of their Oct. 5 hearing.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.