A Facebook whistle-blower is taking her campaign to Washington.
Frances Haugen, a former product manager at Facebook who leaked internal documents to The Wall Street Journal that have generated numerous revelations about the company, will testify in a Senate hearing on Tuesday morning.
The hearing, which starts at 10 a.m., is part of Ms. Haugen’s tour aimed at bringing more government oversight to the social media giant. She appeared on “60 Minutes” on Sunday night and is expected to meet with European regulators this month. Ms. Haugen has warned that Facebook does not have the incentive to change its core goal of increasing engagement — even with harmful content — without intervention from regulators.
Here is what to expect at the hearing:
Ms. Haugen will focus on the company’s push to obtain younger and younger users. Some of the research she leaked to The Journal showed that Instagram harmed teenagers by feeding on anxiety and, in some cases, suicidal ideations. The research revealed that one in three teens reported feeling worse about their body image because of Instagram.
“I am here today because I believe that Facebook’s products harm children, stoke division, weaken our democracy and much more,” Ms. Haugen said in written testimony. “The company’s leadership knows ways to make Facebook and Instagram safer and won’t make the necessary changes because they have put their immense profits before people. Congressional action is needed.”
Lawmakers will embrace Ms. Haugen’s testimony. Concerns about the safety of children online have united Republicans and Democrats. They have grown increasingly angry at Facebook for failing to protect young users and for allowing misinformation to spread.
Lawmakers will drill into what knowledge Facebook’s executives had on Instagram’s toxic effect on young users. They will probably ask if Mark Zuckerberg and other leaders were aware of but ignored the research on Instagram’s effect on children and other issues like the spread of hate groups ahead of the Capitol riots.
Lawmakers will probably also ask Ms. Haugen how the company’s systems work to promote toxic content. They will also focus on how tools like beauty filters, comments and Facebook’s “like” button can hook young users to Instagram.
Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat of Connecticut and the chair of the panel on consumer protection, product safety and data security will highlight an experiment his office ran, in which it created an account for a fake 13-year-old user who expressed interest in weight loss. The account was nudged into a rabbit hole of content promoting eating disorders and other self-harms, he said in an interview.
“I want to talk about her perceptions about what she read in those documents and the use of algorithms to increase profits but also to exacerbate the harms,” Mr. Blumenthal said.