Ms. Haugen’s visit to Europe is a reflection of the region’s aggressive approach to tech regulation and a belief that its policymakers are expected to act faster than the United States to pass new laws aiming at Facebook and other tech giants. In the coming weeks, Ms. Haugen has additional meetings with officials in France, Germany and the European Union about new laws that she said were necessary to force Facebook to recalibrate how it measures success more toward the public good.
“For all the problems Frances Haugen is trying to solve, Europe is the place to be,” said Mathias Vermeulen, the public policy director at AWO, a law firm and policy firm that is among the groups working with Ms. Haugen in the United States and Europe.
Understand the Facebook Papers
A tech giant in trouble. The leak of internal documents by a former Facebook employee has provided an intimate look at the operations of the secretive social media company and renewed calls for better regulations of the company’s wide reach into the lives of its users.
In London, Ms. Haugen told policymakers that regulation could offset Facebook’s corporate culture that rewards ideas that get people to spend more time scrolling their social media feeds, but views safety issues as a less important “cost center.”
Facebook’s influence is particularly strong in areas of Africa, Asia and the Middle East where its services are widely popular. But the company does not have language or cultural expertise there, Ms. Haugen said. Without government intervention, she told lawmakers, events in countries such as Ethiopia and Myanmar, where Facebook has been accused of contributing to ethnic violence, are the “opening chapters of a novel that is going to be horrific to read.”
She suggested policies that would require Facebook to perform annual risk assessments to identify areas where its products were causing harm — such as coronavirus misinformation or teenagers’ mental health. She said Facebook could be required to outline specific solutions and share the findings with outside researchers and auditors to be sure they are sufficient.
Without government-mandated transparency, Facebook can present a false picture of its efforts to address hate speech and other extreme content, she said. The company says artificial intelligence software catches more than 90 percent of hate speech, but Ms. Haugen said the number was less than 5 percent.
“They are very good at dancing with data,” she said.
British policymakers are drafting a law to create a new internet regulator that could impose billions of dollars’ worth of fines if more isn’t done to stop the spread of hate speech, misinformation, racist abuse and harmful content targeting children.