Facebook Exposed: The Spread of Misinformation


Ashley Ragone

Of teenagers that are between the ages of 13 and 17, about 90% have used social media at one point or another. The social network of Facebook encounters billions of users each month. Amid this enormous activity, misinformation and hate spread across social media platforms like the plague. Frances Haugen, a former employee at Facebook, informed the world of the poison behind these companies and the true damage they cause.

After rumors spread, Frances Haugen revealed her identity and stepped forward as the Facebook whistleblower during a “60 Minutes” episode on Sunday, October 3rd. She copied thousands of secret documents of the company’s own research, information that proved they promoted political unrest and misinformation by increasing controversial content. Haugen, who worked in the civic integrity department, started at Facebook with a motivation to create a more positive digital environment after she experienced a loved one suffer with negative experiences online. She explained in her “60 Minutes” segment that Facebook makes money through tracking user activity and the number of clicks from each user; the higher the activity, the higher the chances of an advertiser paying the company money to promote them in their user’s page. In order to make more money and drive up user activity, they did research that proved angry and controversial content gets people to stay on longer, which led to a major change in the algorithm in 2018 which enforced this. Although they promised to take control and filter the content on their service, documents supported that less than 1% of violence and 3-5% of hate was tackled. Some topics that drove up activity were misinformation, specifically about the January 6th insurrection, and unhealthy lifestyles directed toward teenage girls. Studies show that because of Instagram, suicidal thoughts are made worse for 13.5% of girls, and it causes an eating disorder-related issue to arise in 17% of girls. Since Frances Haugen used to be an employee of the company, she is a strong speaker and provides compelling evidence of the danger Facebook-owned apps pose. As Haugen herself put it, “Facebook, over and over again, has shown it chooses profit over safety. It is subsidizing, it is paying for its profits with our safety.” She also expresses that she is “hoping that this will have had a big enough impact on the world that they get the fortitude and the motivation to actually go put those regulations into place”, referring to proposed qualities in the platform that actually would protect users from the negativity they experience. Haugen’s act has lifted the curtain and as we now see, social media platforms may be more complex than we once perceived them to be.