Zuckerberg Says Idea That Facebook Prioritizes Profit Above Safety Is ‘Just Not True’

Wednesday, October 6th 2021, 8:31 am
By: CBS News

Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg on Tuesday evening shared a letter he sent to Facebook employees following Frances Haugen's testimony. In it, he said that the "idea that we prioritize profit over safety and well-being" is "just not true."

"The argument that we deliberately push content that makes people angry for profit is deeply illogical," Zuckerberg wrote. "We make money from ads, and advertisers consistently tell us they don't want their ads next to harmful or angry content. And I don't know any tech company that sets out to build products that make people angry or depressed. The moral, business and product incentives all point in the opposite direction."

Zuckerberg also defended Facebook's recent attempts to tailor certain products specifically for underage users, saying that he "found it difficult" to read what he called "the mischaracterization of the research into how Instagram affects young people."

Haugen, the Facebook whistleblower who first came forward in an explosive "60 Minutes" interview, told a Senate subcommittee on Tuesday that there is "no one" holding Mark Zuckerberg accountable except for himself. 

"Facebook has not earned a right to just have blind trust in them," Haugen said. "Trust is ... last week one of the most beautiful things I heard on the committee was trust is earned. And Facebook has not earned our trust."

Haugen said the company suffered from "moral bankruptcy" and is "stuck in a loop it can't get out of."

Haugen worked as a product manager for the civic misinformation team at Facebook for nearly two years before she quit in May. Before leaving, she said she secretly copied tens of thousands of pages of Facebook internal research, which she said provides evidence the company has been lying to the public about making significant progress against hate, violence and misinformation.

Haugen gave many of the documents to The Wall Street Journal, which published reporting on the research that showed the company was aware of the harm it does to underage users. She also shared the internal research with Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, and Senator Marsha Blackburn, Republican of Tennessee, who are both on the Senate subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Data Security. Haugen also filed a whistleblower complaint with the Securities and Exchange Commission. 

While the hearing touched on a wide swath of Facebook's problems, it focused on the platform's impact on children, coming after the company paused its planned "Instagram for Kids" and a week after its global safety head defended children's use of the platform. Haugen compared the platform to cigarettes, and several lawmakers said Facebook needed to be treated like Big Tobacco.

"Facebook understands that if they want to continue to grow, they have to find new users," Haugen said. "They have to make sure that that next generation is just as engaged on Instagram as the current one. And the way they'll do that is by making sure that children establish habits before they have good self-regulation.”

© 2021 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.