Facebook putting profit before public good, says whistleblower Frances Haugen

Internal papers show firm is lying about making progress against hate, violence and misinformation, ex-employee says

A former Facebook employee has accused the company of putting profit over the public good, after coming forward as the whistleblower who leaked a cache of internal documents that have placed the tech firm in its worst crisis since the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Frances Haugen, 37, said the thousands of documents she had collected and shared with the Wall Street Journal and US law enforcement showed the company was lying to the public that it was making significant progress against hate, violence and misinformation.

“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 optimise for its own interests, like making more money,” she said. In an interview with the news program 60 Minutes on Sunday, Haugen explained her decision to speak out about the internal workings of Facebook, saying she had become alarmed by what she perceived as company policies that prioritized profit over public safety.

“The version of Facebook that exists today is tearing our societies apart and causing ethnic violence around the world,” she said. Haugen said she joined Facebook in 2019 as a product manager on its civic integrity team – which focused on issues related to elections worldwide – after spending more than a decade working in the tech industry, including at Pinterest and Google. She said she agreed to take the job only if she could work to help the company combat misinformation, saying the issue was personal for her – she previously lost a relationship with a friend after they descended into online conspiracies.

But Haugen said she soon began to feel Facebook was unwilling to take the action needed to address these issues, even though it had the tools. She left the company in May this year. “No one at Facebook is malevolent,” Haugen told 60 Minutes. She said Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder and chief executive, “has never set out to make a hateful platform.” But, she said, the effects of the company’s choices had been grave.