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Facebook Faces a Historic Crisis

Facebook is facing a historic crisis. Revelations brought to light from whistleblower Frances Haugen (hau-gen), a former data scientist at Facebook, has led to what may be the most threatening scandal in the company’s history. The pressure was turned up on Tuesday, when Haugen testified before a Senate subcommittee. She provided a clear and detailed glimpse inside the notoriously secretive tech giant. She said Facebook harms children, sows division and undermines democracy in pursuit of breakneck growth and “astronomical profits.” Haugen was an insider, making her a powerful critic; she worked at Facebook for nearly two years after stints at Google, Yelp and Pinterest. Whilst at Facebook, she studied how the social network’s algorithm amplified misinformation and was exploited by foreign adversaries. Before Haugen left the social network, she copied thousands of pages of confidential documents and shared them with lawmakers, regulators and *The Wall Street Journal*, which published a series of reports called the Facebook Files. Haugen told Congress that Facebook consistently chose to maximize its growth rather than implement safeguards on its platforms, just as it hid from the public and government officials’ internal research that illuminated the harms of Facebook products. In a lengthy blog posted Tuesday evening, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that company’s internal research has been misrepresented. Of particular concern to lawmakers on Tuesday was the impact on children by Instagram, which is owned by Facebook. Haugen has leaked one Facebook study that found that 13.5% of U.K. teen girls in one survey say their suicidal thoughts became more frequent after starting on Instagram. Another leaked study found 17% of teen girls say their eating disorders got worse after using Instagram, and about 32% of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse. Haugen urged lawmakers to examine the algorithms that drive popular features, like the main feeds in Facebook and Instagram.