Sound On: FB Whistle Blower Hearing, Biden Sells BIF (Radio)

Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen warned Tuesday that the 'metaverse,' the virtual reality world at the heart of the social media giant's growth strategy, will be addictive, rob people of more personal info and give the company another monopoly online.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Haugen said her former employer rushed to trumpet the metaverse recently because of the intense pressure the social media goliath is facing after she revealed deep-seated problems at the company, in disclosures that have energized legislative and regulatory efforts around the world to crack down on Big Tech.

'If you don´t like the conversation, you try to change the conversation,' the former product-manager-turned-whistleblower said. 

Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen (pictured) speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Brussels on Tuesday

Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen (pictured) speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Brussels on Tuesday

Mark Zuckerberg has said that users will, for example, be able to attend virtual concerts or fence with holograms of Olympic athletes in the metaverse - and he refocused the entire company on creating it, including renaming the business Meta

Mark Zuckerberg has said that users will, for example, be able to attend virtual concerts or fence with holograms of Olympic athletes in the metaverse - and he refocused the entire company on creating it, including renaming the business Meta

An example of what the metaverse could look like, distributed by Meta at the Connect 2021 Conference in Menlo Park, California in October

An example of what the metaverse could look like, distributed by Meta at the Connect 2021 Conference in Menlo Park, California in October

The documents she has turned over to authorities - dubbed the Facebook Papers - and her testimony to lawmakers have drawn global attention for providing insight into what the company may have known about the damage its social media platforms can cause. 

She is in the midst of a series of appearances before European lawmakers and regulators who are drawing up rules for social media companies.

Meta, the new name for the parent company of Facebook, denied it was trying to divert attention away from the troubles it faces by pushing the metaverse. 

'This is not true. We have been working on this for a long time internally,' the company said in a statement.

Meta, the new name for the parent company of Facebook, denied it was trying to divert attention away from the troubles it faces by pushing the metaverse. 'This is not true. We have been working on this for a long time internally,' the company said in a statement

Meta, the new name for the parent company of Facebook, denied it was trying to divert attention away from the troubles it faces by pushing the metaverse. 'This is not true. We have been working on this for a long time internally,' the company said in a statement

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It stressed that it´s working to responsibly build the metaverse - essentially a series of interconnected virtual communities that will merge online life with real life. 

CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said that users will, for example, be able to attend virtual concerts or fence with holograms of Olympic athletes in the metaverse - and he refocused the entire company on creating it, including renaming the business Meta.

Launching that new brand, in fact, draws attention to the company, it said in a statement, adding that if it didn't want the scrutiny it would have delayed or scrapped the launch altogether.

What is the metaverse?

The 'metaverse' is a set of virtual spaces where you can game, work and communicate with other people who aren't in the same physical space as you. 

Facebook explained: 'You'll be able to hang out with friends, work, play, learn, shop, create and more. 

'It's not necessarily about spending more time online — it's about making the time you do spend online more meaningful.'

While Facebook is leading the charge with the metaverse, it explained that it isn't a single product one company can build alone. 

'Just like the internet, the metaverse exists whether Facebook is there or not,' it added. 

'And it won't be built overnight. Many of these products will only be fully realized in the next 10-15 years.' 

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But the new focus on the metaverse creates a whole new set of dangers, Haugen said. In 'Snow Crash,' the 1992 sci-fi novel that coined the phrase, 'it was a thing that people used to numb themselves when their lives were horrible,' she said.

'These immersive environments are extremely addictive and they encourage people to unplug from the reality we actually live,' she said.

'I´m also worried about it on the level of - the metaverse will require us to put many, many more sensors in our homes and our workplaces,' forcing users to relinquish more of their data and their privacy.

In a presentation last month, Zuckerberg described how the metaverse would allow for mixed-reality business meetings where some participants are physically present while others beam in as avatars. 

The company has launched virtual meeting software called Horizon Workrooms for use with its virtual reality headsets, so co-workers can (hopefully) better communicate, brainstorm and socialize virtually, instead of, say, looking at one another on a Zoom call grid.

But Haugen said employees of companies that use the metaverse would have little option but to participate in the system or leave their jobs.

'If your employer decides they're now a metaverse company, you have to give out way more personal data to a company that´s demonstrated that it lies whenever it is in its best interests,' she said.

And she cautioned the public not to expect more transparency.

'They´ve demonstrated with regard to Facebook that they can hide behind a wall. They keep making unforced errors, they keep making things that prioritize their own profits over our safety,' she said.

European Union lawmakers questioned Haugen intensely Monday, before applauding her at the end of the 2 1/2 hour hearing. The EU is drafting new digital rules for the 27-nation bloc that call for reining in big 'digital gatekeepers,' requiring them to be more transparent about algorithms that determine what people see on their feeds

European Union lawmakers questioned Haugen intensely Monday, before applauding her at the end of the 2 1/2 hour hearing. The EU is drafting new digital rules for the 27-nation bloc that call for reining in big 'digital gatekeepers,' requiring them to be more transparent about algorithms that determine what people see on their feeds

On Tuesday, Haugen cautioned the public not to expect more transparency from the company:  'They´ve demonstrated with regard to Facebook that they can hide behind a wall. They keep making unforced errors, they keep making things that prioritize their own profits over our safety,' she said

On Tuesday, Haugen cautioned the public not to expect more transparency from the company:  'They´ve demonstrated with regard to Facebook that they can hide behind a wall. They keep making unforced errors, they keep making things that prioritize their own profits over our safety,' she said

Haugen has said Facebook´s systems amplify online hate and extremism, fail to protect young people from harmful content, and that the company lacks any incentive to fix the problems, in revelations that shed light on an internal crisis at the company that provides free services to 3 billion people.

To back up her allegations, she has made a series of disclosures to the Securities and Exchange Commission that were also provided to Congress in redacted form by her legal team. The redacted versions received by Congress were obtained by a consortium of news organizations, including the AP.

In Tuesday's interview, she expressed astonishment that the company would shift focus to a whole new realm while it is under such intense criticism about the areas where it is already working.

In Tuesday's interview, she expressed astonishment that the company would shift focus to a whole new realm while it is under such intense criticism about the areas where it is already working. For this, she has faulted CEO Mark Zuckerberg (pictured) personally

In Tuesday's interview, she expressed astonishment that the company would shift focus to a whole new realm while it is under such intense criticism about the areas where it is already working. For this, she has faulted CEO Mark Zuckerberg (pictured) personally 

'They´re going to hire 10,000 engineers to work on video games when they haven´t actually gotten safety right on their main product,' Haugen said on Tuesday 

'They´re going to hire 10,000 engineers to work on video games when they haven´t actually gotten safety right on their main product,' Haugen said.

For that, she faulted Zuckerberg personally, saying he has exhibited a pattern of prioritizing growth over making sure Facebook is good for users.

'I think that is a failure of leadership,' she said. 'Unless he wants to prioritize the safety of the platform, he should step aside and let someone else focus on that.'

The company denied that it´s putting profits over safety. 

'Yes, we´re a business and we make profit, but the idea that we do so at the expense of people´s safety or well-being misunderstands where our own commercial interests lie,' it said, adding that it plans to spend more than $5 billion in 2021 on safety and security and employs more than 40,000 people who work on keeping users safe.

Zuckerberg has previously dismissed Haugen´s claims as a 'coordinated effort' to paint a false picture of the company.

But officials in Washington and European capitals are taking her claims seriously. European Union lawmakers questioned her intensely Monday, before applauding her at the end of the 2 1/2 hour hearing.

The EU is drafting new digital rules for the 27-nation bloc that call for reining in big 'digital gatekeepers,' requiring them to be more transparent about algorithms that determine what people see on their feeds and making them more accountable for the content on their platforms.

Facebook has said it largely supports regulations, with legislative efforts in the EU and United Kingdom much further along than those in the U.S. New rules could squeeze advertising revenue, but Meta's stock price appears to have so far weathered the recent storm. Haugen is pictured arriving to deliver a speech at European Parliament on Monday

Facebook has said it largely supports regulations, with legislative efforts in the EU and United Kingdom much further along than those in the U.S. New rules could squeeze advertising revenue, but Meta's stock price appears to have so far weathered the recent storm. Haugen is pictured arriving to deliver a speech at European Parliament on Monday

Facebook has said it largely supports regulations, with legislative efforts in the EU and United Kingdom much further along than those in the U.S. New rules could squeeze advertising revenue, but Meta's stock price appears to have so far weathered the recent storm.

Haugen has made stops in London and Berlin to speak to officials and lawmakers and spoke at a tech conference in Lisbon. She also will address French lawmakers in Paris on Wednesday.

Haugen has made stops in London and Berlin to speak to officials and lawmakers and spoke at a tech conference in Lisbon. She also will address French lawmakers in Paris on Wednesday.

Haugen has made stops in London and Berlin to speak to officials and lawmakers and spoke at a tech conference in Lisbon. She also will address French lawmakers in Paris on Wednesday. 

Facebook Whistleblower Frances Haugen's testimony to Congress

During a Senate Commerce subcommittee hearing on October 5, Whistleblower Frances Haugen called for transparency about how Facebook entices its users to keep scrolling on its apps, and the harmful effect it can have on users.

'As long as Facebook is operating in the shadows, hiding its research from public scrutiny, it is unaccountable,' said Haugen, a former product manager on Facebook's civic misinformation team. She left the nearly $1 trillion company with tens of thousands of confidential documents.

'The company's leadership knows how to make Facebook and Instagram safer, but won't make the necessary changes because they have put their astronomical profits before people. Congressional action is needed,' Haugen said.

Haugen revealed she was the person who provided documents used in a Wall Street Journal and a Senate hearing on Instagram's harm to teenage girls. She compared the social media services to addictive substances like tobacco and opioids.

Before the hearing, she appeared on CBS television program '60 Minutes,' revealing her identity as the whistleblower who provided the documents.

'There were conflicts of interest between what was good for the public and what was good for Facebook,' she said during the interview. 'And Facebook over and over again chose to optimize for its own interests like making more money.'

Haugen, who previously worked at Google and Pinterest, said Facebook has lied to the public about the progress it made to clamp down on hate speech and misinformation on its platform.

She added that Facebook was used to help organize the Capitol riot on January 6, after the company turned off safety systems following the U.S. presidential elections.

While she believed no one at Facebook was 'malevolent,' she said the company had misaligned incentives.

In response to Haugen's bombshell comments, a Facebook executive accused her of stealing company documents and claimed she is 'not an expert' on the company's content algorithms.

Facebook Vice President of Content Policy Monika Bickert spoke out in an interview with Fox News on, slamming Haugen a day after she testified to Congress.

Bickert said that Haugen 'mischaracterized' the internal studies regarding the harmful impacts of content on Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, which she presented to to Congress.

Source : https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10181511/The-AP-Interview-Facebook-whistleblower-fears-metaverse.html

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