Whistleblower Frances Haugen, a former Facebook employee, testified before the European Union on Monday. Haugen told EU lawmakers that they have a unique opportunity to regulate Facebook’s inaction on hate speech and misinformation. She had previously testified before Congress in the US, urging lawmakers to take action.
Haugen made headlines in early October when she exposed confidential documents showing that Facebook is aware of the divisive content on its platform. According to her, the social media giant is hesitant to restrict this content because it results in significant engagement—and profits.
In Brussels, Haugen answered a diverse slate of questions from lawmakers. “I am here today because I believe that Facebook’s products harm children, stoke division, weaken our democracy, and much more,” she stated. According to Haugen, Facebook possesses the tools to curtail hate speech and misinformation but refuses to implement them.
Doing so would harm the company’s bottom line, she said. Lawmakers asked Haugen her opinion of the Digital Services Act, a draft law introduced in December 2020 that would curtail the excesses of tech giants. Under the DSA, global platforms like Facebook would be subject to stricter regulations in the EU.
Haugen lauded the DSA during the Monday meeting, saying it has “the potential to become the global gold standard” for digital regulations globally. She also expressed her hope that it could inspire similar laws in the United States.
Facebook categorically denies Haugen’s claims, calling them inaccurate. The documents she released documents have dented Facebook’s reputation, and it has responded by rebranding itself as Meta. The shift in focus also includes a new emphasis on the “Metaverse,” a shared virtual reality landscape that serves as Facebook’s forthcoming flagship product.
The whistleblower also told reporters that she didn’t want people to direct anger toward Facebook but instead wanted to spur action against its policies. “If people just hate Facebook more because of what I’ve done, then I’ve failed,” Haugen said in early October. “I believe in truth and reconciliation—we need to admit reality. The first step of that is documentation.”
The DSA is likely to pass in the EU in the second half of 2022. Haugen cautioned MEPs that the details of the law need to be exact to prevent companies like Facebook from finding loopholes to avoid accountability.
“There is a lot at stake here. You have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create new rules for our online world,” she concluded.