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Whistleblower Frances Haugen urges regulation to tackle Facebook ‘crisis’

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Former employee Frances Haugen testifies after leaking about internal research to authorities

Washington:

A Facebook whistleblower went before US lawmakers on Tuesday to push them to regulate the social media giant, after an outage potentially affecting billions of users and highlighting a global reliance on its services.

Former employee Frances Haugen testified on Capitol Hill after leaking to officials and The Wall Street Journal about internal research that described how Facebook knew its sites were potentially harmful to young people’s mental health. Huh.

Less than a day after Facebook spoke to senators, its photo-sharing app Instagram and messaging service WhatsApp went offline for nearly seven hours, affecting “billions of users”, according to tracker DownDetector.

Haugen warned in a pre-prepared statement of the risk of not creating new security measures for a platform that says little about how it operates.

“I believe Facebook products harm children, promote division and undermine our democracy,” his statement said.

“Congress needs action. They will not solve this crisis without your help.”

In her testimony she notes the danger of power at the hands of a service that is woven into the daily lives of so many.

“The company knowingly conceals important information from the public, the US government, and governments around the world,” Haugen’s statement said.

“The gravity of this crisis demands that we move out of our previous regulatory framework.”

Facebook has fought hard against outrage about its practices and their impact, but this is just the latest crisis to hit the Silicon Valley giant.

US lawmakers have for years threatened to regulate Facebook and other social media platforms to stave off criticism that the tech giant tramples on privacy, provides a megaphone for dangerous misinformation and harms young people’s well-being. deliver.

After years of scathing criticism on social media, without any major legislative changes, some experts were skeptical that change was coming.

“It has to come down to the platform, it has to feel pressure from its users, it has to feel pressure from its employees,” Arizona State University professor Mark Hayes told AFP.

‘I love Instagram’

Haugen, a 37-year-old data scientist from Iowa who has worked for companies including Google and Pinterest – but said in an interview with the CBS News show “60 Minutes” on Sunday that Facebook was “much worse” than it was before. .

Facebook’s vice president of policy and global affairs, Nick Clegg, insisted that its platforms are “toxic” for teens, following a tense, hours-long congressional hearing in which US lawmakers asked about its impact on the company’s mental health. I inquired. young user.

Late Monday Facebook blamed the outage on configuration changes made to routers that coordinate network traffic between its data centers.

“This disruption in network traffic had a massive impact on the way our data centers communicate, bringing our services to a halt,” Facebook’s vice president of infrastructure, Santosh Janardhan, said in a post.

In addition to the disruption to people, businesses and others dependent on the company’s tools, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg suffered a financial setback.

Fortune’s billionaire tracking website said late Monday that Zuckerberg’s personal wealth has fallen by nearly $6 billion from the first day to less than $117 billion.

Some rejoiced at Facebook’s tools being offline, but others complained to AFP that the outage had caused them problems both professionally and personally.

“I love Instagram. It’s the app I use the most, especially for my work,” said Millie Donnelly, community manager for a nonprofit.

“So professionally, it’s definitely a step back and then personally, I’m always on the app.”

(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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