- Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen shined a light on the original sin of Big Tech.
- Algorithms keep people, especially kids, hooked onto their platforms.
- To spur action, the United States must measure the real-life harms caused by online disinformation.
- Mark Nitzberg is executive director of the UC Berkeley Center for Human-Compatible AI.
- This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
In the wake of Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen’s powerful testimony to Congress, there’s been an understandable uproar. It’s clearer than ever that the social media giant has failed to address the spread of hate, disinformation, and other dangerous messaging on its platforms, and arguably incentivized this kind of content for profit.
Part of what made Haugen so effective was that she shined a light on what makes Facebook keep doing so many things wrong. It’s what makes some other platforms so problematic as well: The core design is an ad-supported effort to keep people glued. This is the original sin of Big Tech.
“I saw that Facebook repeatedly encountered conflicts between its own profits and our safety,” she said in her opening statement to Congress. “Facebook consistently resolved those conflicts in favor of its own profits.”