Facebook’s shareholders would look for different leadership than that of its founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg if they could, whistleblower Frances Haugen told The Observer over the weekend.
"I believe in shareholder rights and the shareholders, or shareholders minus Mark, have been asking for years for one share, one vote," Haugen said. "And the reason for that is, I am pretty sure the shareholders would choose other leadership if they had an option."
Haugen said Zuckerberg has failed to show he can protect the public from the negative effects of his company, stressing that "he has all the control. He has no oversight and he has not demonstrated that he is willing to govern that company at the level that is necessary for public safety."
Her remarks come as Facebook continues to find itself under increased scrutiny after an initial series by The Wall Street Journal revealed leaked documents from Haugen, the former Facebook product manager, indicating that the social media platform knew Instagram was harmful to some of its teenage users, failed to take steps to combat COVID-19 misinformation and was not doing enough to address cartels and traffickers using the platform, according to The Hill.
Earlier this month, Haugen testified before Congress, warning that "Facebook should not get a free pass on choices it makes to prioritize growth and virality and reactiveness over public safety. They shouldn’t get a free pass on that, because they're paying for their profits right now with our safety."
Facebook responded to the criticism by telling The Observer that "at the heart of these stories is a premise which is false. Yes, we’re a business and we make profit, but the idea that we do so at the expense of people’s safety or wellbeing misunderstands where our own commercial interests lie. The truth is we’ve invested $13 billion and have over 40,000 people to do one job: keep people safe on Facebook."
The social media company added that "We have no commercial or moral incentive to do anything other than give the maximum number of people as much of a positive experience as possible. Like every platform, we are constantly making difficult decisions between free expression and harmful speech, security, and other issues, and we don’t make these decisions inside a vacuum – we rely on the input of our teams, as well as external subject matter experts to navigate them. But drawing these societal lines is always better left to elected leaders, which is why we’ve spent many years advocating for updated internet regulations."
Since The Wall Street Journal article appeared, Facebook has stated that it would be pausing Instagram Kids, starting a "Take a Break" feature that would encourage occasionally teens to take a break from Instagram and incorporate a new feature that would help prod teens to stop look at conduct that "may not be conducive to their well-being."
Haugen is due on Monday to testify in London at Westminster before the joint committee on the draft online safety bill, The Observer reported.
The bill, which British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has vowed to fast track, would impose a duty of care on social media companies to defend users from harmful content, or face the threat of multibillion-pound fines from the communications regulator.
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