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Facebook ignored user safety outside US to save cost, whistleblower reiterates in testimony in Australia

Facebook ignored user safety outside US to save cost, whistleblower reiterates in testimony in Australia
3 Feb, 2022
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Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen told Australia’s Select Committee on Social Media and Online Safety that the social media company deliberately undermined online safety of users outside the US to save costs by providing less help and reporting of online abuse and safety, Zdnet reported.  

Haugen was testifying before the Select Committee set up by the Australian government to look into the practices of technology and social media companies as a part of the proposed legislation to regulate social media companies and curb harmful online behaviour.

“It (Facebook) really under invests in safety outside the US because, disproportionately, their safety budget is spent on paving the US,” she said.  

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Haugen also reiterated that Facebook adopts a “bare minimum” approach when it comes to taking down harmful content, especially in languages that are not prominently used in developed countries. 

To support her allegation, Haugen cited an intervention screen for eating disorder or self-harm content that was only shown hundreds of times per day as of 2021. 

Haugen had made similar allegations on her testimony to the US Senate in October 2021. Meta Platforms CEO Mark Zuckerberg, had refuted the claims that his company puts profit over safety and said it’s “just not true”. 

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In her testimony, Haugen also warned the Australian Select Committee to not let the social media company anywhere near the regulation process, reported News.com.au.  

She said if Meta is involved it would continue to “mislead and underinvest” in the most basic safety systems to avoid losing profit. 

Even before Haugen’s allegations and leak of internal documents, Facebook has been facing criticism for its data mining and anti-competitive practices. It’s currently facing antitrust cases in the US for the alleged attempt to monopolise the social media ecosystem with aggressive acquisition. 

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Last October, the company announced its plans to transform into a metaverse company and changed the name to Meta Platforms as testimony to its commitment to the metaverse project.  

However, many privacy experts believe that Zuckerberg’s metaverse will not be very different from existing platforms in terms of privacy. 

The recent controversies have started eroding Facebook’s appeal among users. For instance, Meta Platforms in its quarterly financial results, reported that Facebook’s daily active user base declined for the first time in 18 years from 1.930 million in Q3 2021 to 1.929 million in Q4 2021.  

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The social media platform’s monthly active users remained flat at 2.91 billion.