60 Minutes is sharing details of Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen's complaints to the Securities and Exchange Commission, including her claim that the social network stoked political division by steering conservative-leaning users toward conspiracy theories. One of at least eight complaints, titled "Facebook misled investors and the public about its role perpetuating misinformation and violent extremism relating to the 2020 election and January 6th insurrection," refers to Facebook research showing test accounts following "verified/high quality conservative pages" including those of Donald Trump, Melania Trump, and Fox News. Those test accounts were recommended polarizing content after one day, and conspiracy pages after two days.
Facebook "failed to deploy internally recommended or lasting counter-measures," the complaint argues, citing a document in which Facebook purports to "only take action against approximately 2% of the hate speech on the platform." In response, Facebook says it "has taken extraordinary steps to address harmful content," including banning hate groups and the #StopTheSteal Group, but "ultimately, the responsibility resides with those who broke the law, and the leaders who incited them." Lena Pietsch, Facebook's director of policy communications, further states polarization has been growing in the US "for decades" and "is decreasing in other countries where Internet and Facebook use has increased."
The complaints also cite an October 2019 document indicating the company knew Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp were used to "promote human trafficking and domestic servitude"; a document claiming high-profile whitelisted accounts "can violate our standards without any consequences," as less than 10% of their content is reviewed; and an internal report suggesting Facebook has misrepresented the number of individual users to advertisers, not having properly accounted for "single users with multiple accounts." Haugen will testify before a Senate subcommittee on Tuesday about Instagram's harmful effect on young people, which her complaints also describe, per Reuters. She'll appear before British Parliament later this month. (Read more Facebook stories.)