Facebook Whistleblower Testifies Before Capitol Hill

Senate Considers Allegations of "Moral Bankruptcy"

Watch today's legal drama unfold as Facebook is on the line after being accused of "moral bankruptcy" by a former employee and whistle-blower.

Here is what we know so far:

  1. Former Facebook product manager, Frances Haugen, has accused the company of "moral bankruptcy" for choosing to put company profits above the safety and needs of people.
  2. Haugen is testifying today at an internet safety hearing on Capitol Hill. (See here for live coverage and updates.)
  3. Haugen is supporting her claims with a trove of internal documents and memos from the company, which she previously shared with the Wall Street Journal.
  4. Haugen unmasked herself on Sunday, revealing that she is the whistleblower behind the WSJ's earlier reports.
  5. The documents Haugen took show that Facebook executives have known for years that its company, Instagram, is toxic for teenage girls but refused to do anything about it.
  6. Instagram recruits women to sexualized labor on an economic model analogous to the drug trade.

From our earlier report when the story first broke:

"As Instagram has transitioned from being a picture-sharing service to a self-branding platform, girls as young as 14 can cash in on stardom. However, in order for a girl to gain enough social credit to make the big bucks on the Facebook-owned company, she must be prepared to compromise herself, including posting pictures in her underwear, and participating in her own self-commodification through poses that conform to the porn chic aesthetic. This aesthetic increasingly demands a girl take close-up selfies of her body parts, and video herself on her bed with a look of availability. In every meaningful sense of the term, such a girl has become a sex worker.

The only guaranteed beneficiary from this constant supply of free labor is Instagram itself, and its parent company Facebook. The more girls come to use the service, the more Facebook can monetize their low self-image through working with weight-loss apps and cosmetic companies. These girls are essentially Mark Zuckerberg’s harem of sex workers, surrendering their bodies to consumer culture for the sake of actual or potential financial gain. If this model were transferred to a giant warehouse or small village, where the same incentives were used to compel tens of thousands of girls to strip down to their underwear, there would be headlines across America about Mark Zuckerberg’s private harem. But because this labor has been decentralized and is organized through the cloud, and because the financial and psychological incentives are delivered through third parties, the true scandal of Instagram has bypassed public attention. Keep reading...

This scandal, now the focus of national attention, highlights the more philosophical problem that we identified last June, namely that Facebook has strained its value-neutral posturing to the limits of credibility:

 "The deeper problem is that Facebook, like most of Silicon Valley, is built on the illusion that human problems are fundamentally computational, that technology can be independent of metaphysics, that innovation can be value-neutral, that human problems can be solved by code rather than philosophy and religion. Facebook, like Google, was constructed on an engineering mindset gone amok, in which algorithms cease to serve men and women, and humans become slaves to algorithms. This model is neither coherent nor sustainable. Something will have to change at Facebook."

Further Reading

is the author of Gratitude in Life's Trenches: How to Experience the Good Life Even When Everything Is Going Wrong (Ancient Faith 2020) and writes for a variety of publications. He has a Master's in history from King’s College, London, and is currently working on a Master’s in Library Science through the University of Oklahoma. He is editorial assistant for the Fellowship of St. James and a frequent contributor to Salvo and Touchstone magazines. He operates a blog at www.robinmarkphillips.com.

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