Much of the nation was blown away by the heavy accusations being made by former Facebook employee Frances Haugen. In her testimony to Congress, she outlined how Facebook harms younger users and promotes misinformation in order to continue their growth. Facebook is also the parent company of Instagram, which is a massive platform for teenagers.
Haugen cited a leaked study from Facebook, which found that 13.5% of teenagers in the United Kingdom felt more suicidal thoughts after starting to use Instagram. Her accusations even went as far as accusing Facebook of breaking the law when it came to the Jan. 6th Capitol riots. Haugen stated that Facebook CEOs and Mark Zuckerburg lied to investors about what the company knew about the buildup to the riots. Her entire testimony can be summarized with a simple phrase: Facebook promoted profits over safety.
As our society continues to become more technologically advanced, the testimony of Frances Haugen is a significant step in the nation’s approach to social media and technology. Haugen was not just an entry-level employee but actually was in a significant position of power. She had spent multiple years in her field prior to becoming a whistleblower, therefore having a significant amount of credibility.
As far as we know, Haugen has no malicious intent in testifying and leaking documents related to Facebook. Through her public statements and her testimony, she appears to want to actively reform the social media world by bringing attention to the issues caused by it. The significance of her testimony is further highlighted by the fact that Congress has displayed an uncommon sense of unity on the issue.
Since the 2016 Presidential Election, Facebook and other social media platforms have been the center of attention when it comes to misinformation. However, there never seemed to be enough information to support any solution to the issue. This time, Democrats and Republicans seem to finally agree that there has to be some government oversight on social media giants. Haugen was just the missing piece needed for both sides of the aisle to come together.
The path that Congress decides to follow when it comes to holding social media companies accountable is going to be a source of contention. Both sides will agree that something needs to be done, but the issue comes at defining what something actually means in legislative form.
Democrats will undoubtedly pursue a stricter version of oversight than whatever the Republicans may be willing to support. In the light of this bipartisan consensus that Big Tech must be reeled back, both sides should be willing to compromise and work with one another to find a solution.
After so many years of Congressional gridlock, it is refreshing to see both sides actually agree on a common issue. One of the highlights of the testimony from Haugen was when Senators Jerry Moran and Richard Blumenthal publicly acknowledged the differences between them on the issue were very minor.
It is a promising situation for the nation. We can only hope that the political terms of rider bills, pork barreling, and filibusters do not enter this issue that so desperately needs to be addressed.
Miguel Arceo is a senior student athlete at Sebring High School.