By Britney Trachtenberg
Though scrolling through the app is a part of many people’s daily routines worldwide, Instagram has been linked to a large decrease in mental health wellness, particularly for young women.
“So much has happened within the tech sphere within the past 72 hours,” said Purchase student Tyson Walker.
On Sunday, whistleblower Frances Haugen spoke out on a “60 Minutes” segment about practices within Instagram’s parent company, Facebook, saying that Facebook is aware of the impacts that its algorithms have on young women. Additionally, she released several internal documents to both the Wall Street Journal and regulators.
According to the CNN article, After a Bad Day, Facebook Suffers Major Outage, Haugen felt this was necessary because she, “recognized a frightening truth: almost no one outside of Facebook knows what happens inside Facebook.”
One student who preferred to remain anonymous said he thinks, “She's a hero. There aren't enough people in this world willing to stand up when they see something wrong. These tech companies, they run every aspect of our lives at this point. It's about time someone challenged that notion.”
Following her statements, Facebook and its companies, Whatsapp and Instagram, had major outages. The company stated no reason why these outages occurred, but did send out a tweet after 6:30 PM that their servers were starting to run again. The outage lasted around six hours, according to Newsweek’s article How Long Was Facebook Down and What Caused the Outage.
On Tuesday, Haugen testified in front of a Senate subcommittee regarding her claims. In her testimony, she stated that, “Facebook’s products harm children, stoke division, weaken our democracy and much more.”
Haugen expressed that Congressional action is necessary because Facebook and Instagram won’t make changes to their sites, though the company’s leadership knows ways to increase users’ safety on their apps and websites.
Gavriel Saltzman, a Purchase student, expressed that “Facebook is [an] unchecked company due to lobbying [and]...to have them literally become as powerful as the government wouldn't be a surprise.”
In her testimony, Haugen stated why she started working at Facebook in 2019 and what she saw during her time as an employee.
She articulated that she “felt compelled to take an active role in creating a better, less toxic Facebook.”
During her time as the lead product manager for Facebook’s Civic Misinformation team and eventually Counter-Espionage, she saw that the company was repeatedly involved in conflicts that would force them to choose between company profits and users’ safety.
Her testimony revealed that, “Facebook became a $1 trillion company by paying for its profits with our safety, including the safety of our children.”
Haugen expresses that calling out Facebook on their terrible practices was necessary because of the harmful impacts of choosing profits over safety has on users. In her written testimony she said that, by doing so, Facebook and Instagram are “generating self-harm and self-hate...for....groups like teenage girls.”
She says, “As long as Facebook is operating in the dark, it is accountable to no one.”
To see the testimony click here: Frances Haugen Written Testimony