Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg addressed the revelations by whistleblower Frances Haugen in a post on his official page. Zuckerberg also termed Monday’s six-hour global outage as the ‘worst’ the company has had in years.
In his lengthy post, which Zuckerberg initially shared with Facebook employees, he claimed that the company’s work and motives are being misrepresented, and the narrative in the media is painting ‘a false picture.’ He also wrote that on some issues such as child safety, the US Congress will have to step in and update regulation, and cannot leave it to private companies.
Regarding the outage, the Facebook CEO said that they have “spent the past 24 hours debriefing how we can strengthen our systems against this kind of failure,” adding that the challenge wasn’t people switching to other services during such a long outage, “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.”
The Facebook CEO also wrote that the company “cares deeply about issues like safety, well-being, and mental health.” He also added that some of the claims by the whistleblower do not make sense.
“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,” he wrote.
He also questioned the claim that social media and Facebook in particular were contributing to increasing polarisation in society. He claimed that polarisation has stayed flat or declined in some countries, even though it might have increased in the US.
Zuckerberg also denied the claims that the company prioritises “profit over safety and well-being.” He pointed out that Facebook’s decision to introduce Meaningful Social Interactions change to News Feed has been questioned, which showed fewer viral videos and more content from friends and family.
He says Facebook did this knowing that users would spend less time on the app, but “research suggested it was the right thing for people’s well-being.”
“The argument that we deliberately push content that makes people angry for profit is deeply illogical. 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,” he has written.
Zuckerberg has also taken issues with the fact that the company’s apps and policies are harming children.
“I’m particularly focused on the questions raised about our work with kids. I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on the kinds of experiences I want my kids and others to have online, and it’s very important to me that everything we build is safe and good for kids,” he wrote.
The Facebook CEO also praised their Messenger Kids app, calling it “better and safer than alternatives.”
“We’ve also worked on bringing this kind of age-appropriate experience with parental controls for Instagram too. But given all the questions about whether this would actually be better for kids, we’ve paused that project to take more time to engage with experts and make sure anything we do would be helpful,” he wrote.
Regarding reports that Instagram was harming teens, especially young girls, whose body images got worse after their experiences on the app, he wrote that “when it comes to young people’s health or well-being, every negative experience matters,” though he also defended the app.
Finally, Zuckerberg also talked about how internet regulations need to be updated and said private companies cannot be making all of these decisions on their own. He said that US Congress will have to decide on the right age for teens to use internet services, on how internet services should verify people’s ages, and how companies can balance privacy while giving parents visibility into teen activities on the platform.