Frances Haugen is a former Facebook Inc. employee who called out the company for practices that might have contributed to misinformation and violence. She's set to testify before Congress early this week. She has filed at least eight complaints with the SEC involving the company hiding research about its failures.
Haugen quit working for Facebook last year but gathered documentation on Facebook's workplace including data on other colleagues’ work and their own denunciation of the company. She was revealed as the Facebook whistleblower on a segment of “60 Minutes” on Oct. 3.
Frances Haugen’s career history
Haugen worked at Facebook for about two years and left her position in May. Prior to that job, she held positions with several other social media companies including Pinterest and Alphabet Inc.’s Google.
In 2014, around the time when Haugen resigned from her position at Google, she started to have severe health challenges including celiac disease and a blood clot that resulted in an ICU hospitalization. She formed a key friendship with a man who helped her with everyday tasks throughout the worst of her illness.
That friendship, Haugen says, was destroyed when her friend started believing the misinformation he found online. As her health improved, the lost friendship colored the way that she viewed social media, and she sought to change the problems with how it handled misinformation.
What Haugen says about Facebook
Haugen claims that the team she worked on at Facebook was tasked with building tools to study how certain communities might be maliciously targeted with information.
Her motivation in taking the job was to work towards democracy and fighting the spread of misinformation. However, she says that her team was given unreasonable deadlines, which resulted in her getting poor performance reviews.
In addition to Haugen's team, she claims that the company formed other small teams to tackle huge problems like the prevention of human trafficking via the platform. She questioned why Facebook wasn't hiring more people for the job.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Haugen said that the company seemed unwilling to focus on safety measures if they might lead to Facebook users disengaging from the platform. “As long as your goal is creating more engagement, optimizing for likes, reshares and comments, you’re going to continue prioritizing polarizing, hateful content,” said Haugen.
Facebook's potential role in the Capitol riot
Haugen was especially shaken by Facebook’s handling of the weeks leading up to and immediately following the Capitol riot on January 6, 2021. Her team focused on civic integrity was dissolved in December 2020 just after the election.
Haugen suggests that this move, among other changes at Facebook at that time, resulted in the company allowing most of the key misinformation that might have caused the violence at the Capitol, according to CNN.
Facebook representatives have pushed back against these claims. Facebook's Policy Communications Director Andy Stone said, “Every day our teams have to balance protecting the right of billions of people to express themselves openly with the need to keep our platform a safe and positive place,” according to The Wall Street Journal.
What is Frances Haugen’s net worth?
At age 37, Haugen has already worked for several major tech companies and amassed a net worth that might be around $1 million, according to Celebsaga. Haugen has said that she loves Facebook and wants to help fix its shortcomings.