Frances Haugen was hired by Facebook to join the social network’s “Civic Integrity” team, and was distraught when the group was dissolved right after the 2020 election. She began gathering internal documents and communications, eventually quitting in May and turning over a trove of tens of thousands of pages of evidence to federal investigators. On Sunday, she publicly revealed her identity for the first time, granting an interview to 60 Minutes’ Scott Pelley.
Haugen, 37, is a data scientist with an undergraduate degree in computer engineering and a master’s degree in business from Harvard. Over her career, she worked for Google and Pinterest before being recruited to join Facebook in 2019.
“The thing I saw at Facebook over and over again,” Haugen told Pelley, “was there were conflicts of interest between what was good for the public and what was good for Facebook. And Facebook, over and over again, chose to optimize for its own interests, like making more money.”
Comparing Facebook to other social networks, she said the problems at Facebook were “substantially worse” than anything she had seen before.
Pelley asked her why she didn’t just quit, and Haugen replied that she had seen others try to fix things within Facebook but just get “ground down,” and she decided to gather evidence “in a systemic way,” and “get out enough that no one can question that this is real.”
Among the internal research Haugen gathered, she says there is proof that the company is lying to the public about their efforts to combat hate, violence, and misinformation.
“The version of Facebook that exists today is tearing our societies apart and causing ethnic violence around the world,” said Haugen, including the 2018 genocide in Myanmar, organized by the military on Facebook.
The issue of misinformation is personal for Haugen, who told 60 Minutes that she had lost a friend to online conspiracy theories. “I never wanted anyone to feel the pain that I had felt,” she said, citing the “high stakes” in making sure Facebook had high quality information.
Haugen recalled how her work with Civic Integrity had focused on risks to elections, including misinformation, and how it had been a turning point when the company decided to dissolve the group after the election — only for the Jan. 6 insurrection to happen just a few months later.
(Excerpt) Read more in: Mediaite