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Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen calls for urgent external regulation

whistleblower

Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen calls for urgent external regulation

Mark Zuckerberg “has unilateral control over 3 billion people” due to his unassailable position at the top of Facebook, the whistleblower Frances Haugen told MPs as she called for urgent external regulation to rein in the tech company’s management and reduce the harm being done to society.

Haugen, a former Facebook employee who released tens of thousands of damaging documents about its inner workings, travelled to London from the US for a parliamentary hearing and gave qualified backing to UK government proposals to regulate social media platforms and make them take some responsibility for content on their sites.

The company’s internal culture prioritised profitability over its impact on the wider world, said Haugen, and “there is no will at the top to make sure these systems are run in an adequately safe way”. She added: “Until we bring in a counterweight, these things will be operated for the shareholders’ interest and not the public interest.”

She warned that Instagram, which is owned by Facebook and used by millions of children worldwide, may never be safe for pre-teens.

Addressing a group of MPs and peers on Monday, Haugen said much of the blame for the world’s increasingly polarised politics lay with social networks and the radicalising impact of services such as Facebook Groups.

These can encourage small and intense communities that breed conspiracy theories, she said. “I am deeply concerned that they have made a product that can lead people away from their real communities and isolate them in these rabbit holes and these filter bubbles. What you find is that when people are sent targeted misinformation to a community, it can make it hard to reintegrate into wider society because now you don’t have shared facts.”

Amid growing concerns about the impact of Instagram on the mental health and body image of teenagers, Haugen said Facebook’s own research likened the app’s young users to addicts who feel unable to step away from a service that makes them unhappy.

“The last thing they see at night is someone being cruel to them. The first thing they see in the morning is a hateful statement and that is just so much worse.” She claimed the company’s own research found Instagram was more dangerous than other social media such as TikTok and Snapchat because the platform is focused on “social comparison about bodies, about people’s lifestyles, and that’s what ends up being worse for kids”.

She added: “I’m deeply worried it may not be possible to make Instagram safe for a 14-year-old and I sincerely doubt it’s possible to make it safe for a 10-year-old.”

The whistleblower also urged Facebook to make it harder to share material, in order to slow the sharing of hate and disinformation, while also pushing more content from people’s family and friends into users’ newsfeeds: “Moving to systems that are human-scaled is the safest way to design social media. We liked social media before we had an algorithmic feed.”

One of her particular concerns is how Facebook can “mislead” the public into thinking that it is prioritising the tackling of disinformation outside the English-speaking world, while highlighting its impact on societal divisions in Myanmar and Ethiopia. She suggested that tools designed to reduce harm in English-language posts may be less effective in the UK because they were developed using American English.

Facebook’s ownership is structured so that Zuckerberg, as founder of the company, has a special class of share that means he alone ultimately controls the business. This gives him enormous control over the eponymous social network as well as Facebook-owned Instagram and WhatsApp.

Haugen said the company was full of “good, kind, conscientious people”, but they were working with bad incentives set by management and the requirement to maximise financial returns to shareholders. “Facebook has been unwilling to accept even little slivers of profit being sacrificed for safety. And that’s not acceptable.”

She said there were few incentives inside the company to raise flaws and deal with the side-effects of its business model. “Facebook never set out to prioritise polarising and decisive content; it just happened to be a side-effect of the choices they did make.”

Speaking in an earnings call with investors on Monday, Zuckerberg spoke to the document leak but did not address the contents directly, saying the issues the company is facing “aren’t primarily about social media” but relating to “polarization [that] started rising in the US before I was born”.

“My view on what we are seeing is a coordinated effort to selectively use leaked documents to create a false picture about our company,” he added, as the company reported a quarterly profit of $9bn.

A Facebook spokesperson said: “At the heart of these stories is a premise which is false. Yes, we’re a business and we make profit, but the idea that we do so at the expense of people’s safety or wellbeing misunderstands where our own commercial interests lie. The truth is we’ve invested $13bn and have over 40,000 people to do one job: keep people safe on Facebook.”

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Osun Transport Masterplan to Be Ready Soon-Governor Adeleke

Governor Ademola Adeleke has announced his administration’s plan to release to the public the Osun State Transport Master Plan to facilitate integrated connectivity for the Osun economy.

The Governor made the announcement on Thursday while commissioning the Osun State Computerised Vehicle Inspection Testing Center at Osogbo.

The Governor who narrated a series of ongoing reforms being delivered by his government said “The test center right here is the first of its kind among other interventions of our administration to reposition the State’s Transportation sector

According to the State Governor, “Our government is pursuing reforms across the transport sector. We ensure that Commercial Motorcycle operators across the State are registered under a database with a rider’s jacket and identification card for safety purposes. Mini-buses, popularly known as (Korope) have also been registered and numbered for easy identification and security.

“We have introduced single ticketing to all commercial drivers in the State through the Osun State Transport Management System (OSTMS) to guide against leakage of revenue.

“It is equally my pleasure to inform the public that our administration is working on a Transportation Master plan for Osun state. We are focused on a multimodal plan that will integrate all modes of transportation within the state. It will lay our objectives and strategic agenda for land, air, and water transportation.

“The plan is to regulate, plan, and develop an efficient and well-integrated transport system that will serve the public interest, enhance mobility, and deliver a secure and environmentally friendly Public Transportation System in different areas across Osun.

“The plan is central to our five-point agenda as it focuses on connectivity within and outside the state. Osun is centrally located in the heart of Yorubaland.

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Adeleke speaks on collapse of OAU amphitheatre

Governor Ademola Adeleke of Osun has promised to pay the medical bills of students injured in the Obafemi Awolowo University(OAU), Ile-Ife, Amphitheatre roof collapse.

The affected students are receiving treatment at the University Health Centre and the Teaching Hospital Complex (OAUTHC), Ile-Ife.

Adeleke, who was represented by the Commissioner for Education, Dipo Eluwole, sympathised with the management of the University and parents of the affected students on the unfortunate incident.

This is contained in a statement issued by the Public Relations Officer of the University, Mr Abiodun Olarewaju, in Ile-Ife on Saturday.

The commissioner was conducted round the scene of the incident by the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Simeon Bamire, and other principal officers of the University, and visited the two health facilities where the students are receiving treatment.

He expressed happiness that the affected students are responding to the treatment.

Eluwole lauded the university management for its quick response to the emergency and prompt medical attention given to the students.

Speaking to the four students being treated at the University Health and Medical Centre, the commissioner commended their bravery and wished them quick recovery.

At the Neurological ward of the University Teaching Hospital where two other students are being treated, Eluwole pleaded with their parents to see what happened as a natural occurrence.

He, thereafter, informed the vice chancellor that the Gov. Adeleke pledged to bankroll all medical expenses that may be incurred in the course of the treatment of the students.

Responding, the vice-chancellor thanked the governor for being so kind and loving, stressing that his fatherly role to the students and the good people of Osun is commendable.

A torrential rain on Thursday morning, accompanied with a whirlwind affected a part of the ceiling of the Amphitheatre as it fell off and injured some students.

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Woman burns stepchildren’s hands for eating rice prepared for their father

The Adamawa State Police Command has arrested one Rachel Geoffrey, a 23-year-old woman and resident of Federal Housing Estate, Girei, for allegedly setting fire to the hands of her stepchildren.

The children, Genesis Geoffrey, seven years old: and Idadai Geoffrey, three years old, now have their affected hands bandaged.

The Police Public Relations Officer in the state, SP Suleiman Nguroje, said in a statement that Rachel intentionally inflicted severe physical injuries on her stepchildren.

In the statement released Saturday, the police image maker said the incident occurred on Tuesday, May 14.

He said the children suffered several calculated acts of cruelty and human rights violations from their stepmother.

He explained that the children faced the wrath of the woman over a plate of rice she cooked and kept for her husband.

“The kids, because of hunger, ate their father’s food and that angered her. She then tied their hands with a handkerchief and set fire to them, resulting in the severe injuries they sustained,” Nguroje explained.

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