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Facebook paid for profits with our safety, whistleblower tells LBC's Eddie Mair

10 February 2022, 18:19 | Updated: 10 February 2022, 18:48

By Sam Sholli

Facebook has paid for profits with our safety, whistleblower Frances Haugen has claimed.

Frances Haugen previously worked as a product manager on the civic integrity team at Facebook.

In the past she leaked documents which she claimed proved that Facebook prioritised growth over people's safety.

Frances Haugen spokes to LBC's Eddie Mair about Ian Russell, who chairs the Molly Rose Foundation - a suicide-prevention charity set up in memory of his 14-year-old daughter Molly who took her own life in 2017.

Mr Russell, who Frances Haugen has before met, has previously said: "I have no doubt that social media helped kill my daughter".

Frances Haugen told Eddie: "One of the things that I've really felt is like a blessing of this whole experience is people have come up to me regularly and tell me very intimate stories about their experiences with social media.

Speaking of Ian Russel, she said: "A tragedy has occurred. HIs daughter died.

"And moments like that really remind me why I'm doing this - which is that Facebook has made a series of choices that prioritised its own profits, paid for its own profits with our safety.

"And there are real human consequences, like the death of Ian Russell's daughter."

In response to being asked about the UK's Online Safety Bill, she said: "The tech industry as a whole, which has an outsized impact on our daily lives, has much less oversight and transparency than other comparably powerful. industries.

"And so I'm super excited that the UK is taking a world-leading stance around saying 'you guys need to have rules too'. So I think that's great."

She added that "party of why we're so angry with Facebook is that Facebook has lied to us a bunch of times.

"Like, we've had experiences - non-profts, the government has articulated those experiences, things like kids struggling. And Facebook has come straight out and denied that truth, even though they had internal documents that said the opposite.

"It's kind of like the tobacco companies in that regard."

Eddie also asked Ms Haugen: "Do you see your life now as your life before whistleblowing and your life after whistleblowing?"

In her response the question, Ms Haugen said that her day-to-day life "hasn't really changed".

In response to Frances Haugen's LBC interview with Eddie Mair, a spokesperson for Meta - the parent organisation for Facebook - said: “We want everyone to have a safe experience on our platforms, especially young people. Contrary to claims about our company, we’ve always had the commercial incentive to remove harmful content from our platform. That’s why we have made massive investments on safety and security. We have spent approximately $5 billion in this area in 2021 alone and have hired more than 40,000 people to do one job: keep people safe on our services.”

On the subject of regulation, a Meta Company spokesperson said: "We have long called for new rules to set high standards across the internet. While we already have strict policies against harmful content on our platforms, regulations are needed so that private companies aren’t making so many important decisions alone. It’s vital that the final legislation helps make the internet a safer place, and is consistent and workable for the whole industry.”

In response to Ms Haugen had to say about Ian Russell, a Meta Company spokesperson said: "What happened to the Russell family was a tragedy and our hearts go out to them and anyone else affected by these difficult and complex issues. We work with suicide prevention experts to develop our policies, and while we know allowing people to talk about their experiences is important for recovery and to help destigmatise mental health, we also need to protect people from seeing potentially harmful content. We’ve updated our policies over the past few years to ban more types of suicide and self-harm content and will continue to work with experts to help strike this important balance.”

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