Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has had “quite a week” as he noted in a lengthy post on his Facebook page addressing accusations the company has faced from whistleblower Frances Haugen, who testified during a Senate subcommittee on Tuesday. The hearing took place the day after the company’s products —Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp — went down for six hours. In the post, Zuckerberg denied that the company values profits over the safety of its users.
Zuckerberg addressed the outage noting how it affects “the people who rely on our services to communicate with loved ones, run their businesses, or support their communities.”
The rest of his post homed in on Haugen’s testimony. Haugen, who was formerly employed as a Facebook Product Manager beginning in 2019 and addressed civic integrity, asked Congress to take action against the company. Haugen had previously leaked tens of thousands of pages of internal research to the Wall Street Journal and posited that the company frequently chooses its own interests over the public’s, citing that their products “harm children, stoke division and weaken our democracy,” as she said during her opening remarks as CNN reports.
“At the heart of the accusations is this idea that we prioritize profit over safety and well-being,” Zuckerberg wrote. “That’s just not true.”
Amidst the information Haugen leaked and discussed in Congress is Facebook studies that found young people, particularly teen girls, were adversely affected by the use of Instagram, where 13.5 percent of UK teen girls reported more suicidal thoughts, 17 percent of teen girls said they had worsening eating disorders and around 32 percent of teen girls said they had negative outlooks on their bodies after using the platform, as The Wall Street Journal first reported.
Zuckerberg called that information a “mischaracterization” in his post. “In fact, in 11 of 12 areas on the slide referenced by the Journal — including serious areas like loneliness, anxiety, sadness and eating issues — more teenage girls who said they struggled with that issue also said Instagram made those difficult times better rather than worse.”
Haugen also discussed the issue of algorithms fomenting division and spreading misinformation. “It is causing teenagers to be exposed to more anorexia content. It is pulling families apart. And in places like Ethiopia, it’s literally fanning ethnic violence,” Haugen told Congress, as NPR notes.
In his post, Zuckerberg posed the question: “If social media were as responsible for polarizing society as some people claim, then why are we seeing polarization increase in the US while it stays flat or declines in many countries with just as heavy use of social media around the world?” and added “the argument that we deliberately push content that makes people angry for profit is deeply illogical.”
It’s unlikely that the Facebook founder’s post will change the issues that lie ahead. Congress may call on Zuckerberg to testify. The company also faces an antitrust lawsuit filed by the Federal Trade Commission. On Monday, the tech conglomerate filed a motion to dismiss the suit, saying that there is no evidence that the company has violated any antitrust laws. The judge overseeing the case has until mid-November to respond.