All Cyber News Commentary October 5, 2021

Facebook’s data is a sociological gold mine. Outside scholars need access.

The social media company shouldn’t be able to hide information about whether and how it harms users (from the Washington Post)
Frances Haugen 60 minutes interview
Former Facebook product manager Frances Haugen appears on “60 Minutes.” Haugen has been revealed as the source behind tens of thousands of pages of leaked internal company research. (Robert Fortunato for CBSNews/“60 Minutes") (Photo by Robert Fortunato/CBSNews/60MINUTES)

The disclosures made by whistleblower Frances Haugen about Facebook — first to the Wall Street Journal and then to “60 Minutes” — ought to be the stuff of shareholders’ nightmares: When she left Facebook, she took with her documents showing, for example, that Facebook knew Instagram was making girls’ body-image issues worse, that internal investigators knew a Mexican drug cartel was using the platform to recruit hit men and that the company misled its own oversight board about having a separate content appeals process for a large number of influential users. (Haugen is scheduled to appear before a Congressional panel on Tuesday.)

Facebook, however, may be too big for the revelations to hurt its market position — a sign that it may be long past time for the government to step in and regulate the social media company. But in order for policymakers to effectively regulate Facebook — as well as Google, Twitter, TikTok and other Internet companies — they need to understand what is actually happening on the platforms.

 

Nathaniel Persily

Co-director, Cyber Policy Center
Nate Persily