WASHINGTON (WFSB) - A Facebook whistleblower's testimony about her former company could lead to more Congressional oversight.

Frances Haugen said Facebook executives knew their products damaged the mental health of children and spread misinformation, and did nothing to stop any of it.

On Tuesday, Haugen shared that if Facebook did anything, it would have hurt its bottom line.

Her exclusive interview that aired on 60 Minutes Sunday night kicked off a chaotic three day stretch for Facebook.

"I’m here today because I believe Facebook’s products harm children, stoke division and weaken our democracy,” Haugen said on Tuesday.

Haugen was Facebook’s product manager. She said the company chose to protect its revenue over making its platforms safer.

Testifying before a Senate subcommittee, Haugen detailed how Facebook repeatedly hid its own data from investors, how it knew its platforms created negatives effects on children, and why harmful algorithms lead to big profits.

The takeaway, government oversight is needed and CEO Mark Zuckerberg should be held accountable.

Now, U.S. senators, including Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal, are investigating.

"The buck stops with him. The buck stops with him," Blumenthal said. "Why he rejected all of these seemingly worthwhile recommendations in reports and research. Why didn’t he recommend his own researchers’ recommendations."

University of New Haven’s Chris Haynes, an expert on politics and media, said backlash could include an anti-trust lawsuit.

Furthermore, if it’s true the social media giant allegedly knew of issues but failed to mitigate or stop them, he says its bottom-line could also be impacted.

“Specifically, in terms of how their algorithms were spreading misinformation, were impacting governments and elections and how they were putting at risk and at danger our younger children,” Haynes said.

Phycologist Dr. Laura Saunders, of Hartford HealthCare, said effects of social media on children are still emerging, but has seen excessive use fuel social isolation.

“It increases social comparison, which is not helpful for young people. And for the most part it is not real interaction,” Saunders said.

Frances Haugen testified on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.

She added that real discussions are needed to help kids distinguish what’s real on social media while lawmakers determine what’s next.

The whistleblower has repeatedly said the bottom-line mattered most to Facebook than the greater good. That included the damage done to the mental health of children.

"Engagement-based ranking on Instagram can lead children from very innocuous topics like healthy recipes to anorexia promoting content in a very short period of time," Haugen said.

The hearing took place a day after Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp were down for several hours.

Facebook said Haugen's claims were not accurate:

We continue to make significant improvements to tackle the spread of misinformation and harmful content. To suggest we encourage bad content and do nothing is just not true.

In response to her comments, Facebook told 60 Minutes it invested resources to keep its platforms safe.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted a statement to his personal account on Tuesday night.

The argument that we deliberately push content that makes people angry for profit is deeply illogical. We make money from ads, and advertisers consistently tell us they don't want their ads next to harmful or angry content.

 

Blumenthal, however, said Zuckerberg should be more transparent and testify before Congress about the issues.

"If they won't act and big tech won't act, Congress has to intervene," he said.

A Facebook whistleblower testified before a Senate commerce committee less than 24 hours after the social media giant suffered a worldwide outage.

Copyright 2021 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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