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Whistleblower Frances Haugen to meet with Facebook Oversight Board

Facebook responds to whistleblower testimony
Facebook responds to whistleblower testimony 08:13

Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen, who told a Senate subcommittee last week that the social media company is putting profit over the safety of users, will meet with the Facebook Oversight Board in the "coming weeks," the board said in a blog post.

"In light of the serious claims made about Facebook by Ms. Haugen, we have extended an invitation for her to speak to the Board," the blog post said. "The choices made by companies like Facebook have real-world consequences for the freedom of expression and human rights of billions of people across the world. In this context, transparency around rules is essential."

The Oversight Board is currently looking into Facebook's "cross-check" system and whether the social media company gives high-profile users like politicians and celebrities preferential treatment when it comes to enforcing policy violations.

Last month, The Wall Street Journal reported that Facebook's cross-check program exempted high-profile users from some or all of its content moderation rules despite CEO Mark Zuckerberg publicly saying that all of the social media company's users are on equal footing.

Facebook Whistle Blower Frances Haugen Testifies To Senate Committee
Facebook whistleblower, Frances Haugen appears before the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee during a hearing entitled 'Protecting Kids Online: Testimony from a Facebook Whistleblower' at the Russell Senate Office Building on October 05, 2021 in Washington, DC. Pool / Getty Images

In a tweet Monday afternoon, Haugen said she will brief the board about what she learned while working at the company, adding that "Facebook has lied to the board repeatedly, and I am looking forward to sharing the truth with them."

Facebook, which declined to comment on this story, has previously said that Haugen's testimony and claims are mischaracterizing the company's work.

Following Haugen's testimony, Zuckerberg shared a letter he sent to Facebook employees where he wrote that the "idea that we prioritize profit over safety and well-being" is "just not true."

"The thing I saw at Facebook over and over again was there were conflicts of interest between what was good for the public and what was good for Facebook. And Facebook, over and over again, chose to optimize for its own interests, like making more money," Haugen told "60 Minutes" ahead of her testimony.

Haugen, who has worked for Google and Pinterest, told "60 Minutes" that putting their own needs first was "substantially worse at Facebook than anything I'd seen before." Haugen secretly copied tens of thousands of pages of research and said evidence shows that the company is lying to the public about making significant progress against hate, violence and misinformation. 

The oversight board, which was created in May of 2020, is a group of lawyers, professors, journalists, and human rights activists that are aiming to hold Facebook accountable. The members are paid for their work by the $130 million trust fund that Facebook itself set up when the board was created.

When Facebook suspended former President Trump for two years, the Oversight Board upheld that decision earlier this year, but it also provided Facebook with 19 different policy recommendations.

Facebook said it would implement or work on implementing 18 of the 19 recommendations that came out of that decision.  They balked at the board's recommendation that Facebook should report the relative error rate and thematic consistency of determinations made through the cross-check process compared with ordinary enforcement policies.

In June, Facebook responded saying it doesn't have systems in place to make this comparison and that its measurement accuracy systems are not designed to "review the small number of decisions made through the cross-check process."

The board has also asked Facebook to explain the cross-check system and urged the company to release the criteria for adding pages and accounts to the cross-check program. Facebook provided the board with an explanation of how the program works but did not say what the criteria is for adding pages and accounts to the system.

Last month, Facebook said it asked the board for recommendations on how it can improve the cross-check system, which it said was built to "prevent potential over-enforcement mistakes" and to "double-check cases."

The board has also said it is expecting a briefing from Facebook officials about the cross-check system and promised to release details of that briefing as part of its first quarterly transparency report later this month.

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