Just who is Frances Haugen?
For weeks, the onetime Facebook product manager made waves while behind the scenes. After amassing thousands of pages of Facebook documents while working at the company, she had shared the trove with The Wall Street Journal, lawmakers and regulators, leading to revelations that the social network knew about many of the harms it was causing.
Ms. Haugen only revealed herself on Sunday night. That was when she went on “60 Minutes,” started tweeting, published a personal website, started a GoFundMe and announced a European tour to speak with lawmakers and regulators. The move was timed ahead of a congressional hearing on Tuesday, when Ms. Haugen is set to testify in person on Facebook’s impact on young people.
Details about Ms. Haugen, 37, have since spilled out. A native of Iowa City, Iowa, she studied electrical and computer engineering at Olin College and got an M.B.A. from Harvard. She then worked at various Silicon Valley companies, including Google, Pinterest and Yelp.
In June 2019, she joined Facebook. There, she handled democracy and misinformation issues, as well as working on counterespionage as part of the civic misinformation team, according to her personal website.
She left Facebook in May, but not before exfiltrating thousands of pages of internal research and documents. Those documents have formed the basis of a series of Journal articles and a whistle-blower complaint that she and her lawyers have filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Despite her seemingly adversarial position, Ms. Haugen has said she doesn’t hate Facebook and just wants to improve it.
“We can have social media that brings out the best in humanity,” she said on her website.
While she shared some of the company documents with members of Congress and the offices of at least five attorneys general, Ms. Haugen decided not to provide them to the Federal Trade Commission, which has filed an antitrust suit against Facebook. She has said she does not believe that antitrust enforcement is the way to solve the company’s problems.
“The path forward is about transparency and governance,” she said in a video on her GoFundMe page. “It’s not about breaking up Facebook.”
In prepared remarks for the hearing on Tuesday, which were released ahead of time, Ms. Haugen also likened Facebook to tobacco companies and automakers before the government stepped in with regulations for cigarettes and seatbelt laws.
“Congress can change the rules Facebook plays by and stop the harm it is causing,” she said.