Supervisor Elham AbolFateh
Editor in Chief Mohamed Wadie

Zuckerberg Denies Facebook Prioritises Profit over User Safety

Wed 06 Oct 2021 | 11:56 AM
Ahmad El-Assasy

US legislators have accused Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg of prioritising business over user safety, and have urged that regulators look into whistleblower claims that the social media platform affects children's mental health and fuels pisions.

In a public Facebook post hours later, Zuckerberg defended the firm, claiming the claims were in contrast with Facebook's goals.

"The argument that we deliberately push content that makes people angry for profit is deeply illogical," he wrote.

"We make money from ads, and advertisers consistently tell us they don't want their ads next to harmful or angry content. And I don't know any tech company that sets out to build products that make people angry or depressed."

Whistleblower Frances Haugen asked for clarity about how Facebook entices users to keep scrolling, giving advertisers plenty of opportunities to reach them, during a Senate Commerce subcommittee hearing.

"As long as Facebook is operating in the shadows, hiding its research from public scrutiny, it is unaccountable," said Haugen, a former product manager on Facebook's civic misinformation team. She left tens of thousands of secret documents at the roughly $1 trillion corporations

"The company’s leadership knows how to make Facebook and Instagram safer, but won’t make the necessary changes because they have put their astronomical profits before people. Congressional action is needed," Haugen said.

Mr Zuckerberg said that at the heart of the accusations "is this idea that we prioritise profit over safety and well-being". "That's just not true," he stated emphatically.

Senator Dan Sullivan expressed concern about the impact of Facebook and its subsidiaries, such as Instagram, on children's mental health. "We're going to look back 20 years from now and all of us are going to be like, 'What the hell were we thinking?"

Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, who chairs the panel, said Facebook was aware that its products were addicting. He remarked, "Tech now faces that big tobacco jaw-dropping moment of truth."

He demanded Zuckerberg speak before the committee, as well as an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Trade Commission into Facebook.

"Our children are the ones who are victims. Teens today looking in the mirror feel doubt and insecurity. Mark Zuckerberg ought to be looking at himself in the mirror," Blumenthal said.

Following the session, Blumenthal stated that he would like to question Zuckerberg about why he ignored recommendations to make products safer for consumers.

In his blog post, Zuckerberg stated that Facebook would continue to investigate its societal impact. He noted, however, that Congress should revise legislation to clarify the legal age for minors to use internet services, how to verify their ages, and how to "balance teens' privacy while giving parents visibility into their activity."

Haugen stated that she would promote"oversight and public scrutiny" of Facebook's content recommendation algorithms and their effects. She proposed that the federal government create a specific organisation to supervise social media businesses.