Blumenthal compares Facebook whistleblower testimony to taking on Big Tobacco
Sen. Richard Blumenthal and other senators questioned a former Facebook data scientist on Tuesday after she said the platform's products harm children and fuel division within the U.S.
Frances Haugen is being called the "Facebook whistleblower” after she painted a chilling picture of how Facebook and Instagram work on the inside.
“Facebook and ‘Big Tech’ are facing a 'Big Tobacco’ moment, a moment of reckoning,” Blumenthal said. "I sued Big Tobacco as Connecticut's attorney general. I helped to lead the states in that legal action, and I remember very, very well.”
Blumenthal and other senators questioned Haugen for hours.
Haugen produced internal research that she says shows Facebook knows its algorithms recommend misinformation and dangerous content.
"The company's leadership knows how to make Facebook and Instagram safer, but won't make the necessary changes because they have put their astronomical profits before people,” she said.
Blumenthal's office posed as a 13-year-old girl on Instagram. The app recommended accounts called "Eternally Starved,” "I Have To Be Thin” and "Skin and Bones."
"The witness today— the whistleblower confirmed it that that experience is not unusual,” Blumenthal said.
Facebook said on Twitter that Haugen did not work directly on child safety and "has no direct knowledge of the topic from her work at Facebook."
"Even with the most sophisticated technology, which I believe we deploy, even with the tens of thousands of people we employ to try and maintain safety and integrity of our platform… we're never going to be absolutely on top of this 100% of the time,” said Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice president of Global Affairs.
Sen. Blumenthal says that's not enough. He's pushing several new laws to control how social media platforms interact with kids.
Those bills have a lot of Republican support too.