Facebook exec pushes back on whistleblower claims

Oct 28, 2021, 4:00 AM | Updated: 4:03 am

Monika Bickert, Facebook’s head of global policy management, says the social media giant does not prioritize engagement and user growth over safety. That contradicts Senate testimony by whistleblower Frances Haugen, who claims Facebook knows its systems harm vulnerable people and hasn’t made meaningful changes to prevent it. The platform is designed to exploit negative emotions to keep people on the platform, Haugen says.

Facebook has pushed back on Haugen’s claims but hasn’t pointed to any factual errors in her testimony or in a series of reports that outlined massive shortcomings at the social network, identified by its own internal research.

Bickert spoke to The Associated Press following Haugen’s Senate testimony on Oct. 5. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: Does Facebook prioritize engagement and profit over safety?

A: We do not and we have not prioritized engagement over safety. I’ve been at this company for more than nine years. I’m a mother. I also was a criminal prosecutor and worked on child safety for more than 10 years. And I can tell you I wouldn’t be at this company if we weren’t prioritizing safety.

Q: You’ve said repeatedly that the majority of teens have a positive experience on Instagram, but your research showed that some teens are harmed. What is Facebook doing specifically to address the issues that your own research raised?

A: The entire reason that we do research is because we understand that even if the majority of teens are getting support from their time on Instagram, even if a few teens are having a bad experience or a small number of teens are having a bad experience, that’s too many, and we need to build features and products to support them. And that’s exactly what we’ve done over the years.

Q: Is your repeated reference to the documents as stolen a signal that you’re planning to sue the whistleblower or retaliate against her in another way?

A: I can’t answer that. I can only tell you that this was an employee who didn’t work on these issues, and I do work on these issues and want to represent the hard work that the more than 40,000 employees working on safety and security at Facebook do every day.

Q: Can you point to anything in her testimony that was not truthful?

A: A number of these documents have been mischaracterized, including the research on Instagram use. The suggestion that the research showed that Instagram is somehow a toxic experience is simply not true, and we’ve now published that research. Look, I want to be clear this is not peer reviewed research. We do have a serious research program at Facebook. We participated in more than 400 research articles in the last year alone. These stolen documents show more of a survey, so this is not peer reviewed research, but that stolen survey has been misrepresented as suggesting that Instagram is a toxic environment for teens.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - A ferry berths as a partially illuminated Colombo Lotus Tower, a multi complex digital trans...
Associated Press

Sri Lanka marks independence anniversary amid economic woes

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lanka marked its 75th independence anniversary on Saturday as a bankrupt nation, with many citizens angry, anxious and in no mood to celebrate. Many Buddhists and Christian clergy had announced a boycott of the celebration in the capital, while activists and others expressed anger at what they see as […]
23 hours ago
FILE - President Joe Biden delivers his first State of the Union address to a joint session of Cong...
Associated Press

Biden makes progress on ‘unity agenda’ outlined in 2022

WASHINGTON (AP) — A year ago, President Joe Biden used his first State of the Union address to push top Democratic priorities that were sure to face a battle in the narrowly divided Congress but he also laid out a four-pronged “unity agenda” that would be an easier sell. Biden’s unity goals would be hard […]
23 hours ago
Associated Press

New California oil well ban put on hold for voters to decide

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California’s new law banning new oil and gas wells near homes, schools and other community sites has been put on hold until after voters decide next year whether to throw it out, officials announced Friday. Opponents of Senate Bill 1137 gathered more than 623,000 valid voter signatures to put a referendum […]
23 hours ago
FILE - Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks after being sworn in to begin his second term during an ina...
Associated Press

Florida lawmakers to meet next week on Disney, immigration

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida lawmakers will meet next week to complete a state takeover of Walt Disney World’s self-governing district and debate proposals on immigration and election crimes, as Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis continues to leverage national political fissures ahead of an expected White House run. Republican leaders of the Legislature, in coordination with […]
23 hours ago
FILE - Johnny Thai, 11, receives the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at a pediatric vaccine clinic for chil...
Associated Press

California won’t require COVID vaccine to attend schools

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Children in California won’t have to get the coronavirus vaccine to attend schools, state public health officials confirmed Friday, ending one of the last major restrictions of the pandemic in the nation’s most populous state. Gov. Gavin Newsom first announced the policy in 2021, saying it would eventually apply to all […]
23 hours ago
Part of the 988helpline.org website is photographed Friday, Feb. 3, 2023. A cyberattack caused a ne...
Associated Press

Feds say cyberattack caused suicide helpline’s outage

WASHINGTON (AP) — A cyberattack caused a nearly daylong outage of the nation’s new 988 mental health helpline late last year, federal officials told The Associated Press Friday. Lawmakers are now calling for the federal agency that oversees the program to prevent future attacks. “On December 1, the voice calling functionality of the 988 Lifeline […]
23 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Prep the plumbing in your home just in time for the holidays

With the holidays approaching, it's important to know when your home is in need of heating and plumbing updates before more guests start to come around.
...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet can improve everyday life

Quantum Fiber supplies unlimited data with speeds up to 940 mbps, enough to share 4K videos with coworkers 20 times faster than a cable.
...
Children’s Cancer Network

Children’s Cancer Network celebrates cancer-fighting superheroes, raises funds during September’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Jace Hyduchak was like most other kids in his kindergarten class: He loved to play basketball, dress up like his favorite superheroes and jump as high as his pint-sized body would take him on his backyard trampoline.
Facebook exec pushes back on whistleblower claims