Facebook critics have a Frances Haugen problem: Many love that the whistleblower leaked a trove of documents exposing many of the tech giant’s worst problems — but hate her ideas on how to solve them.
Haugen has repeatedly insisted that breaking up Meta Platforms — the company that owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, and which changed its name from Facebook last month amid a torrent of bad press — will not solve the issues she has helped uncover. Those include Instagram’s toxic effects on teen mental health and the company’s struggles to crack down on human trafficking.
Instead, Haugen has insisted in interviews and in Congressional testimony that the company’s woes are mainly the result of poor leadership under Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg, who has deployed algorithms that run its social-networking apps to incentivize engagement at any cost.
“These systems are going to continue to exist and be dangerous even if broken up,”Haugen addressed Congress in October.
Such comments have left bad tastes in the mouths of many Meta critics, who initially praised Haugen’s leaks as a breakthrough as they seek to hold Facebook accountable for its increasingly outsize power.
“She turned over the documents — great,”The Post was informed by Mike Davis, the head of the conservative antibig tech group, the Internet Accountability Project. “Thank you for your service. Now go away.”
Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook changed its name to Meta in October amid a torrent of bad press.Getty Images
“She’s not a policy expert, especially not in antitrust,”Davis, who worked previously for Sen. Chuck Grassley in Iowa, supports a slate House antitrust bills, which include one that could breakup Meta, Google, or other large tech firms.
Haugen said to lawmakers that rather than slicing the company, the government should leave Meta as is and create a new regulator that could request company data and force modifications to its algorithms.
“There needs to be a regulatory home where someone like me could do a tour of duty after working at a place like this,” Haugen said.
In a Vogue interview on Tuesday Haugen reiterated his belief in the idea, saying that calls for the company’s dissolution are not supported. “so reductive”This could even be a violation of the first amendment.
“At which point, the way we will get change is if, like, we have 18-year-olds having dance parties outside Mark Zuckerberg’s house,”Haugen also participated in the interview. The photoshoot was also included.
“Thank you for your service. Now go away,”Mike Davis from the conservative Internet Accountability Project spoke about Frances Haugen.
But Haugen’s belief that Meta’s harms do not inherently come from its size but rather from its leadership and a lack of oversight is misguided, according to Matt Stoller, an antitrust expert and former adviser to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).
“The documents were useful but she’s not relevant,”Stoller said that The Post had added that Haugen was also included. “doesn’t really have any understanding of the core problem.”
“She basically agrees with Mark Zuckerberg,”He concluded. “She wants Mark Zuckerberg to be nicer.”
A prominent Republican lobbyist also slammed Haugen, arguing that opening Facebook up to greater competition would help address issues including Instagram’s negative effects on teens.
“Haugen and her largely Democratic supporters are looking at the wrong solution,”The Post was told by the lobbyist.
“We do not need a super speech regulator,”The lobbyist also added. “We need to solve the market power problem.”
If its most vehement critics succeed, Facebook may have to sell assets like WhatsApp and Instagram.
Influential digital rights group the Electronic Frontier Foundation, meanwhile, has sought to thread the needle by using Haugen’s testimony to bolster their case for breaking up the company without acknowledging that she opposes the idea.
“Facebook’s broken system is fueled by a growth-at-any-cost model, as indicated by some of the testimony Haugen delivered to Congress,”The group wrote in November. “In other words, Facebook’s badness is inextricably tied to its bigness.”
“Requiring Facebook to divest Instagram, WhatsApp, and possibly other acquisitions and limiting the companies’ future mergers and acquisitions would go a long way toward solving some of the problems with the company, and inject competition into a field where it’s been stifled for many years now,”The Electronic Frontier Foundation was also added.
“These systems are going to continue to exist and be dangerous even if broken up,”Haugen addressed Congress in October. Getty Images
Meta and Bill Burton (an ex-communications staffer of the Obama administration who represent Haugen) did not respond to our requests for comment.