(WJW / AP) – Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg responded to testimony made by a whistleblower to Congress on Tuesday, as well as worldwide outages that impacted the company’s social media platforms the day before.
Speaking before the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, former Facebook data scientist Frances Haugen told lawmakers the company knows its platform spreads misinformation and content that harms children, but refuses to make changes that could hurt its profits.
Haugen said Facebook knows vulnerable people are harmed by its systems, from kids who are susceptible to feel bad about their bodies because of Instagram to isolated adults who are more exposed to misinformation.
She told lawmakers new regulations are needed to force Facebook to improve its platforms.
In a lengthy statement Tuesday evening, Zuckerberg said Haugen’s testimony misrepresents the company’s work and motives. He said their team cares deeply about issues such as safety, well-being and mental health.
“If we wanted to ignore research, why would we create an industry-leading research program to understand these important issues in the first place? If we didn’t care about fighting harmful content, then why would we employ so many more people dedicated to this than any other company in our space — even ones larger than us? If we wanted to hide our results, why would we have established an industry-leading standard for transparency and reporting on what we’re doing? And 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?” Zuckerberg said in the Facebook post.
Much of Zuckerberg’s statement reflected on claims about the company’s work with children. He said he’s advocated for Congress to update internet regulations for years to help combat harmful content and privacy issues.
“At some level, the right body to assess tradeoffs between social equities is our democratically elected Congress. For example, what is the right age for teens to be able to use internet services? How should internet services verify people’s ages? And how should companies balance teens’ privacy while giving parents visibility into their activity?”
Zuckerberg said they’re committed to doing more research on the effects of social media on young people and making that research publicly available.
“We have an industry-leading research program so that we can identify important issues and work on them. It’s disheartening to see that work taken out of context and used to construct a false narrative that we don’t care,” Zuckerberg said.
Facebook faced other issues this week when the site, along with its suite of platforms including Instagram and WhatsApp, went dark for hours on Monday.
In a statement explaining the issue in technical verbiage, the company said the problem stemmed from an internal “faulty configuration change” and not an outside source.
Zuckerberg said the company spent the past 24 hours debriefing how they can strengthen their systems against major issues like this.
He said the outage served as a reminder for how much their work matters to people.
“The deeper concern with an outage like this isn’t how many people switch to competitive services or how much money we lose, but what it means for the people who rely on our services to communicate with loved ones, run their businesses or support their communities,” Zuckerberg said.
The company, which has more than 3.5 billion users, made clear no user data was compromised during the rare outage.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.