Even as Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen took to Capitol Hill to testify on Facebook’s latest scandal, the social media giant continued to rake in a record amount of revenue. In fact, Haugen told Congress during her testimony that Facebook “put their astronomical profits before people.”
In late summer, published studies linked Instagram, owned by parent company Facebook, to depression in young girls. Haugen herself testified to links between teenage girls and eating disorders, saying the algorithm of the platform is set to promote followers or Facebook pages based on previous searches or views of certain accounts.
Instagram had to admit to a CNN reporter that once an account followed certain extreme diet accounts, the algorithms of the platform suggested even more extreme diet pages for the account user to follow. This was uncovered when an investigative group, at the behest of Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), set up a dummy account supposedly registered to a thirteen year old girl. A representative from Instagram had to admit that the extreme diet accounts broke Instagram’s rules and community standards, but stated that they had removed the accounts once they were reported by Blumenthal’s office.
Blumenthal and other members of Congress believe that Facebook and Instagram (Facebook owns Instagram and chat app What’s App) is aware of the problems the social media platforms create, but that they aren’t doing enough to ensure that users do not come to any harm as a result of their social media’s algorithms.
When Facebook launched as a public company in 2012, the revenues for that fiscal year were a little over $5 billion. In fiscal year 2020, that profit was almost $86 billion. Most of Facebook’s profits are the result of advertising on the website.
The pandemic nor growing concern over the business practices of the social media giant put a damper on Facebook’s revenue. In fact, Facebook’s stock grew an astounding twenty-four percent in 2021 alone. In 2019, Facebook was required to pay a $5 billion Federal Trade Commission fine due to numerous privacy data violations. However, this had little effect on the bottom line at Zuckerburg and company.
Since Haugen’s testimony, some pundits have posited that Facebook users may be facing an unhealthy addiction to Facebook, and this is one reason for the growing revenue of the embattled company. Although much public discontent surrounds Facebook due to privacy concerns, alleged spread of misinformation during the COVID-19 pandemic as well as inaccurate information spread during both the 2016 and 2020 elections. However, the app is as popular as ever, with many users complaining about Facebook – while on Facebook.
Haugen’s testimony came after the Wall Street Journal released leaked documents the newspaper dubbed “Facebook Files.” The bulk of these files served as Haugen’s proof as she testified about the detrimental effect Facebook and Instagram are having on young girls in particular. One of Haugen’s repeated suggestions for correcting this issue was a regulation of Facebook and Instagram by governmental entities.
Haugen claimed that the higher-ups at Facebook and Instagram know how to make the platforms safer for younger users, but that profits are the main driving force at the company. At the end of Haugen’s testimony, she promised more whistleblower documents in the near future.