Just twenty-four hours after Frances Haugen, a former high-ranking Facebook executive who surprised the company when she quit her job in May, revealed to the world that she left the job with a “treasure trove” of scandalous data proving just how damaging to society Facebook’s algorithms are.
Here’s her 60 Minutes interview:
After her revelations, a retinue of powerful media figures on their various news networks came forward to denounce the Facebook business model all throughout the day. In the last day, Facebook has been subjected to a media feeding frenzy on its name and its corporate model. Mark Zuckerberg is nowhere to be found and the Facebook corporate team appear unable–or unwilling–to divulge much.
One of the most damning parts of the 60 Minutes report was just how bad for girls’ self-image the Facebook algorithm is. Haugen’s pilfered data reveals that the Facebook algorithm fixates and amplifies the most negative aspect of the human condition. Since Facebook owns other social media platforms, such as Instagram, Haugen walked away with proof of similar perfidy from Facebook’s sister companies.
For young girls, Instagram, using a similar algorithm, exacerbates low self-esteem and preys on negative body images–which can lead to suicidal ideation from girls exposed to these pernicious algorithms.
In terms of the wider body politic, Facebook tends to silo people into either the extreme Right or Left; intensifying the partisan divide in the country and enhancing the key emotion of our time: anger.
Facebook especially finds itself in hot water, since the Democratic Party remains convinced that Facebook was an accomplice, either willing or unwilling, in the “Russia Collusion” delusion that drove so many Democrats to political insanity during the Trump Administration (Democrats became convinced that Facebook allowed itself to be used by those pesky Russians to rig the 2016 election against Hillary Clinton and for Donald Trump).
Republicans, meanwhile, loathe Facebook because they are (not incorrectly) convinced that Facebook, like most technology firms, is governed by Liberals. Many Conservatives believe (again, somewhat correctly) that Facebook’s Liberal masters are using their position as managers of the powerful social media platform to unfairly censor conservative users simply for sharing their thoughts.
These Republicans (and some Democrats) want to see the big tech firms, such as Facebook, labeled as a publisher of content and regulated accordingly. This would essentially allow Facebook and its sister companies to continue operating but it would open the company up to lawsuits for allowing false or defamatory information to be posted.
Republican leaders, such as the firebrand Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO), want to see Facebook treated as a monopoly and busted apart by the federal government.
Haugen’s accusations against Facebook, and her tranche of damning evidence that she took on her way out of Facebook in May of 2021, has already given fuel to the fire against Facebook.
The day after Haugen’s interview something strange happened: Facebook, which owns approximately 91 smaller companies, including the popular social media apps, like Instagram and WhatsApp, suffered a mysterious glitch that has taken its programming offline. None of the approximately 2.9 billion Facebook users have been able to access their account for the better part of a day…and there’s no end in sight to that outage.
On Reddit, one user claiming to be on Facebook’s tech team wrote this earlier today:
As one Twitter user explained:
Although, it should be noted that the original Reddit user who posted his explanation for events has since deleted his post and deactivated his account.
And, while it is possible that the timing of the outage was coincidental, I am suspicious of that timing. After all, as Garak in Deep Space Nine once quipped: “I believe in coincidences. Coincidences happen every day. But I don’t trust coincidences.”
It is certainly possible that this historic outage of Facebook was the result of some stupid mistake; human error that just so happened to coincide with the largest, most scandalous whistleblower case in the history of Facebook. Certainly, Zuckerberg is sweating as he has apparently lost $7 billion in net worth because of the shutdown.
Then again, it’s possible that what’s happening now is a failsafe move; a “break the glass moment” where Facebook’s masters throw all caution out the window in order to eradicate any damning proof that Haugen’s claims are, in fact, accurate.
We know that Frances Haugen walked away from Facebook with proof of how the proprietary Facebook algorithm operates; how it targets users to generate the highest of level of engagement (in order to generate revenue from ads). Facebook knew Haugen had this data cache since the summer and they did nothing because they wanted to see what, precisely, she had. That information had not been revealed until the airing of the 60 Minutes piece on Sunday, October 3, 2021.
Now that Facebook is aware of what she had and what she revealed, it is possible that they are instituting a hard reset of their entire network to make sweeping changes to their algorithm in order to remove–or attempt to remove–any evidence that proves Haugen’s claims.
And before you scoff, remember: immediately before the 2020 election, after receiving a shellacking from angry Congresspeople over Facebook’s role in the 2016 election and their subsequent censoring of conservative opinion on the social media platform, the company altered their algorithm.
To avoid embarrassment or consequences–either political and/or legal–Facebook switched off the features of their system that exacerbated the destructive elements of their product. After some time passed, however, according to Haugen, Facebook immediately reactivated the old features because this was how Facebook made its massive profits. It was always about user engagement in order to generate clicks and create gobs of cash for the company on which those 2.9 billion users accessed daily for years.
Now that Haugen’s claims are out in the open, with the data, Facebook could be cleaning house in order to cover-up and obfuscate the fact that their product is proving destructive to young girls and democracy itself. It’s pretty bad when, after Haugen’s revelations went public, media hosts, like Joe Scarborough (and many others), were coming forward and likening Facebook to Big Tobacco. That’s usually the glide slope toward a company’s ultimate destruction, when everyone starts thinking your product is like cigarettes.
Anyway, maybe I am wrong. Maybe it really was just an unfortunate technical glitch. But, I damn sure am suspicious of this coincidence. And you should be too. We’ve lived in a world in which many of our greatest institutions–public and private alike–have been proven to be corrupt; once that proof has been revealed, though, justice is either painfully delayed or its impact stunted, thereby diminishing public trust in those institutions.
Cynicism and mistrust have become the defining features of civic life in the United States today because of this. It really wouldn’t be that surprising that some version of what I speculated about above is accurate and Facebook is engaged in the most massive cover-up in corporate history since Big Tobacco tried to convince the world that their product didn’t kill.
Maybe Mark Zuckerberg should give Nick Naylor a call?
UPDATE: AS OF 6:05 PM EASTERN, I REGAINED ACCESS TO MY PERSONAL FACEBOOK ACCOUNT, ALTHOUGH IT IS VERY BUGGY…