Frances Haugen, new generation whistleblower

By Martin Untersinger, Florian Reynaud and Alexandre Piquard

Published on November 08, 2021 at 05:38 – Updated on November 08, 2021 at 13:31

When, in June 2019, Frances Haugen pushes the doors of Facebook’s headquarters for the first time, she oscillates between hope and pride, impressed by the size of the buildings, which look like a small town in the middle of Silicon Valley.

She hesitated for a long time, but finally accepted a position to work on disinformation related to politics and society. It all started with the drift of one of her closest friends who, she says, “radicalized” on the Internet. The one she considered a little brother, and whom she had hired to help her when she was confined to a wheelchair by an autoimmune disease in 2014, moved away as he deteriorated in online disinformation and conspiracy. Upon her arrival at Facebook, she is determined to tackle this problem. “I don’t wish on anyone the pain I felt,” she told the the wall street journal.

Two years later, Frances Haugen had not solved the problem from within, so she changed her strategy. By leaking thousands of internal Facebook documents to the stock market watchdog (Securities and Exchange Commission, SEC), the US Congress and journalists around the world, the former model employee plunged the social network into turmoil. The accuser does not sufficiently control the harmful effects of its algorithms in terms of hatred or disinformation, it now connects interviews on television sets and parliamentary hearings. After a visit to the British Parliament and a few days in Germany, she was to be heard on Monday, November 8, at the European Parliament, before going to France on Wednesday, to the National Assembly and the Senate.

Also listen “Facebook Files”: Inside the Disorderly Cogs of Business

From Google to Facebook, via Pinterest and Yelp, Frances Haugen embodies a new generation of pure Silicon Valley products who, driven by ethical and societal issues, no longer hesitate to challenge the failings of their employers.

The “Facebook Files”, a dive into the workings of the “likes” machine

The “Facebook Files” are several hundred internal Facebook documents copied by Frances Haugen, an algorithm specialist, when she was an employee of the social network. They were provided to the US regulator and Congress, then forwarded by a US parliamentary source to several media, redacted the personal information of Facebook employees. In Europe, these media are, in addition to The worldthe german daily Suddeutsche Zeitungthe WDR and NDR television channels, the Tamedia Group, Thing, Berlingske and OCCRP.

They show that Facebook is devoting more resources to limiting its harmful effects in the West, to the detriment of the rest of the world. They certify that these effects are known internally but that the warning signals are not always taken into account. Finally, they prove that Facebook’s algorithms have sometimes become so complex that they seem to escape their own authors. Find all our articles by clicking here.

A smooth journey

Before spending her entire professional life in California, Frances Haugen was born in Iowa, an agricultural state in the central United States. Both of her parents are scientists at the local university and she spent a happy childhood in a “house full of books”. In a local newspaper in 1997, she explained that she hesitated between a career as a biologist, a lawyer and even a ” political woman “.

In 2007, “Newsweek” mentions a 23-year-old employee courted by aspiring candidates for the Democratic nomination: Frances Haugen

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