Facebook May Go Down Again Today

An hours-long outage occurred yesterday across Facebook and all of its subsidiary platforms, after a company whistleblower made more shocking allegations, causing company stock to plummet.

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Frances Haugen, the Facebook whistleblower who revealed her identity during a Sunday interview on 60 Minutes, will appear before a Senate subcommittee today to testify about how the social media giant had knowledge of its platforms' negative impact, yet did nothing.

Haugen, a graduate of Needham‘s Olin College of Engineering and Harvard Business School, is set to testify to the Senate Commerce subcommittee on consumer protection on Tuesday morning, and she has a stockpile of private Facebook research files, that she took with her when she left the company earlier this year, to back up her claims.

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After two years at Facebook, where she worked on a team intended to combat political misinformation, Haugen said she grew disillusioned with the company for failing to act on changes to make its platforms safer when those changes were in direct opposition to company growth and profit. Her lawyer says she has filed at least eight complaints with the Securities and Exchange Commission, alleging Facebook misled its shareholders by using its algorithms to amplify misinformation.

The SEC claims also included accusations about the company’s public statements and their intent to misdirect the public as to the real problem; specifically, the prevalence of hate speech, and how the social network was used for events that turned violent, including the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

On Sunday, the 37-year-old former Facebook product manager told 60 Minutes that the company has purposely tried to hide critical evidence that reflects their culpability in the spread of hate, violence, and misinformation across social media. “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, and Facebook over and over again chose to optimize for its own interests, like making more money," Haugen said.

During the interview, which is available in the video above, a correspondent quotes one internal Facebook document as saying: "We have evidence from a variety of sources that hate speech, divisive political speech and misinformation on Facebook and the family of apps are affecting societies around the world."

Haugen elaborated on what had sparked her need to speak out now: "I've seen a bunch of social networks, and it was substantially worse at Facebook than anything I've seen before." Haugen continued, "At some point in 2021, I realized I'm going to have to do this in a systemic way, that I'm going to have to get out enough [documents] that no one can question that this is real."

Facebook has aggressively pushed back against the accusations, calling many of the claims "misleading" and arguing that its apps do more good than harm. On Monday, a massive global outage caused the entire Facebook platform to go down, including its Instagram and WhatsApp subsidiaries.

The services, businesses, and people who rely on all of the social media platforms were unable to access any content for six hours. This catastrophic event, combined with the recent allegations and pending testimony, caused Facebook's stock prices to fall at least 5% on Monday, erasing roughly $7 billion from the personal wealth of founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

While Facebook issued a statement late Monday saying, “the root cause of this outage was a faulty configuration change” and that there is “no evidence that user data was compromised as a result” of the outage, the timing couldn’t have been worse for the company.

While Facebook was offline, Reuters published Haugen's prepared opening statement, that she will read to Congress this morning. In it, she explains that Facebook "consistently resolved conflicts in favor of profits" and "amplifies division, extremism, and polarization."

Frances Haugen, a former Facebook product manager turned whistle-blower, appeared on “60 Minutes” on Sunday evening. Photo by screengrab/via Robert Fortunato/CBS)

Haugen’s statement goes on to conclude that she believes “Facebook's products harm children, stoke division, weaken our democracy, and much more." Haugen will also tell Congress: "As long as Facebook is operating in the dark, it is accountable to no one. And it will continue to make choices that go against the common good."

Senator Marsha Blackburn, a staunch Republican from Tennessee, who serves as the committee’s ranking member, is set to declare that "Facebook is running scared," in her opening remarks on Tuesday morning.

The following is also an excerpt from Blackburn’s expected statement: "They know that — in their words — 'young adults are less active and less engaged on Facebook' and that they are running out of teens to add to Instagram…They are also studying younger and younger kids so they can market to them."

Conservative US Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) during a Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection session that focused on the mental health harms to children caused by Facebook and Instagram, in Washington, DC, September 30, 2021. (Photo by Patrick Semansky/via Getty Images)

Congress's role, Blackburn is expected to say, is to provide the oversight Haugen says the company and CEO Mark Zuckerberg need: "By shining a light on Mr. Zuckerberg and company's conduct, we will help hold them accountable."

Frances Haugen is scheduled to testify before the US Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security on Oct. 5 at 10 am/ET. You can watch the hearing live in the video below and you can follow my live tweets that will cover the event here.

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Amee Vanderpool writes the SHERO Newsletter and is an attorney, published author, contributor to newspapers and magazines, and analyst for BBC radio. She can be reached at avanderpool@gmail.com or follow her on Twitter @girlsreallyrule.

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