Whistleblower Shows Morally Bankrupt Facebook Urgently Needs Independent Oversight, Accountability, and SEC Investigation [Updated]

The system is blinking red; How many more insurrections have to happen before we hold Facebook to account? Frances Haugen: “Facebook has demonstrated it cannot operate independently.”

October 3, 2021 — The Real Facebook Oversight Board issued the following statement for attribution in response to new allegations from a whistleblower on CBS News 60 Minutes.

“ Today’s new revelations from brave Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen show what the Real Facebook Oversight Board has been saying for a year: Facebook’s actions must be met urgently with real independent oversight, accountability, and justice. The goal is no longer to save Facebook — Facebook is beyond hope. The goal now is to save democracy.

Today, we learn how everything we warned about in December 2020 came to pass. There is nowhere for Facebook to hide. It cannot claim, it didn’t know. It was warned repeatedly that it was putting US democracy in danger. Frances Haugen’s evidence today reveals the depths of the company’s morally bankrupt decision-making — and the devastating harms of its algorithms.

In 2018, reporting revealed how Facebook enabled a massive data breach from over 87 million users which was later used by the Trump campaign to spread disinformation on Facebook in the 2016 election. Today’s revelations are the perfect bookend for Facebook as an enabler of Trump, showing how the company’s morally bankrupt decision-making powered January 6th and the Big Lie.

Today, the total failure to hold Facebook to account after Cambridge Analytica is coming home to roost.

The Real Facebook Oversight Board was an emergency coalition of civil rights leaders and academics who came together to urge Facebook to put systems in place to reduce the spread of disinformation ahead of the 2020 election. We succeeded in forcing Facebook to make some of these changes but today we learned that it turned off these changes within days, a decision that had devastating consequences allowing extremism and disinformation to flourish. Facebook chose profit and hate over safety, and has deeply damaged democracy.

The Facebook Oversight Board has failed. The system is blinking red, and without real, meaningful, independent, and robust oversight and investigation of Facebook, more lives will be lost. How many more insurrections have to happen before we hold Facebook to account?

As Frances Haugen said: “Facebook has demonstrated it cannot operate independently.”

Only independent research and independent oversight can allow for credible understanding of Facebook’s actions and the remedies needed for reform.”

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Real Facebook Oversight Board members are available for comment. Statements do not reflect the individual positions of all Real Facebook Oversight Board Members. Contact us at media@the-citizens.com.

QUOTES FROM RFOB MEMBERS

From Shireen Mitchell, Founder, Stop Online Violence Against Women Inc. —

“Frances Haugen has bravely revealed in her interview the very things we at Stop Online Violence Against Women Inc. have documented since 2013; the amplification and use of hate to keep users on the platform engaged. Facebook used the research not to fix the platform but to instead weaponized the data in harmful ways against users. The targeted users of this hate-filled rhetoric were not considered even after the Myanmar genocide. To dismantle their civic integrity arm after the elections indicates that they only care about human rights when it’s connected to elections and nothing more.

From Carole Cadwalladr, co-founder of Real Facebook Oversight Board and Guardian journalist —

“ Facebook is a rogue state, lying to regulators, investors, and its own Oversight Board. What we are seeing today is a market failure with profound, devastating global consequences. The Cambridge Analytica scandal was the moment to hold Facebook executives to account. But both the FTC and SEC failed to do their jobs. We are now living with this fallout. Frances Haugen’s evidence tonight was compelling and damning. The SEC must re-open the settlement it reached with Facebook over Cambridge Analytica and investigate these new allegations. Executives and board members must be held to account. There is evidence to suggest that their behaviour was not just immoral but also criminal.”

From Shoshana Zuboff, Author, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism; Professor Emeritus, Harvard Business School —

“Facebook is a crisis of the Republic… of all Republics. Many have directly experienced, or known, or sensed this fact. Now Frances Haugen has bravely asserted her moral bearings, bringing us the documentation that definitively reveals Mr. Zuckerberg’s years-long campaign of gas-lighting and mendacity.

Even as we feel outrage toward Mr. Zuckerberg and his corporation, the cause of this crisis is not a single company, not even one as powerful as Facebook. The cause is the economic institution of surveillance capitalism.

If they change the algorithm to be safer, people will spend less time on the site, they’ll click on less ads, they’ll make less money,” Ms. Haugen told 60 Minutes. The economic logic of these systems, the data operations that feed them, and the markets that support them are not limited to Facebook. The imperatives of surveillance economics determine the engineering of these operations — their products, objectives, and financial incentives — along with those of the other tech empires, their extensive ecosystems, and thousands of companies in diverse sectors far from Silicon Valley.

The damage already done is intolerable. The damage that most certainly lies ahead is unthinkable. There is only one durable solution to this crisis: We undertake the work of interrupting and outlawing the dangerous operations of surveillance capitalism and its predictable social harms that assault human autonomy, splinter society, and undermine democracy. We save the Republic by defending our rights to self-governance. We reject the profit-maximizing and unaccountable power of the few over the many. We repair. We grow stronger. Together we construct a digital future purpose-built for democracy.

It is not too late. The time is right. And there is not a moment to lose.”

An emergency response to the ongoing harms on Facebook’s platforms from leading global scholars, experts and advocates.