Facebook is working on AI tech that will monitor your every move

Marck Zuckerberg VR
  • Facebook is working on tech that will monitor human life, the company said in a new blog post.
  • The idea is to build AI that sees the world as humans do, from a first-person perspective.
  • This AI could be used for what Facebook envisions as the future of smartglasses.

Facebook envisions a future where smartglasses “become as useful in everyday life as smartphones,” the company said in a new blog post.

In order to achieve that future, such devices will require powerful AI software that can read and respond to the world around the headset’s user. And the only way to train AI to see and hear the world like humans do is for it to experience the world like we do: from a first-person perspective.

“Next-generation AI will need to learn from videos that show the world from the center of action,” the blog post said.

Facebook’s solution to this problem is a new project, titled, “Ego4D,” which will collate data from “13 universities and labs across nine countries, who collected more than 2,200 hours of first-person video in the wild, featuring over 700 participants going about their daily lives.”

The data will be open to the research community, the blog post said, but the goal of the project is clear: To create the type of AI that can power a slew of Facebook devices currently in the works.

There’s even a Facebook division, known as Reality Labs, that’s focused on research and development for the future of VR and AR tech.

That division is headed by longtime Facebook exec Andrew “Boz” Bosworth, who shared images of himself in various prototypes this past week:

The company already makes a very popular virtual reality headset in the Oculus Quest 2, and it has plans to transition from VR to augment reality (AR) in the coming years.

Notably, Facebook currently produces a set of smartglasses in collaboration with Ray Ban, named Ray Ban Stories, and previously deployed a team of staffers to capture data in the world around them using pairs of prototype smartglasses.

Got a tip? Contact Insider senior correspondent Ben Gilbert via email (bgilbert@insider.com), or Twitter DM (@realbengilbert). We can keep sources anonymous. Use a non-work device to reach out. PR pitches by email only, please.

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Facebook is fighting to keep records of its own investigation into the genocide of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar out of court

mark zuckerberg
  • Facebook is appealing a request for internal records linked to a Myanmar genocide case, filings show.
  • It’s the latest development in a legal battle regarding Facebook’s role in genocidal violence.
  • The company said sharing users’ private content would create “grave human rights concerns of its own.”

Facebook on Wednesday challenged part of a judge’s order that would require the tech giant to release internal documents and private user content connected to the genocide of 24,000 Rohingya people in Myanmar.

The company is appealing US Magistrate Zia Faruqi’s September mandate that said Facebook must disclose records from the company’s private investigation into its role in the systematic mass executions of Rohingya civilians by the Myanmar military.

Faruqi’s order also asked Facebook to release content posted by accounts affiliated or suspected of being affiliated with Myanmar officials.

“Locking away the requested content would be throwing away the opportunity to understand how disinformation begat genocide of the Rohingya,” Faruqi wrote in the ruling.

The tech giant argued that disclosing internet users’ private content would violate federal law under the Stored Communications Act, adding that fulfilling such a request would create “grave human rights concerns of its own.”

The appeal specified that Facebook would comply with requests to “produce relevant public information and non-content metadata.”

In a statement to Insider, Rafael Frankel, Facebook’s Director of South and Southeast Asia Policy, said: “We support international efforts to bring accountability for atrocity crimes committed against the Rohingya people. We’ve made voluntary, lawful disclosures to the UN’s Investigative Mechanism for more than a year and we commit to disclosing information to The Gambia to complement that effort. We also support modernizing the SCA and reforms that allow a broader range of disclosures for significant investigations like this, while avoiding a precedent that risks the privacy and human rights of billions of people.”

Facebook’s filing is the latest development in an international legal battle alleging Myanmar officials of genocide against the Rohingya, a stateless Muslim minority.

Beginning in 2016, the military carried out “clearance operations” of the ethnic group that included the rape, torture, and mass executions of tens of thousands of men, women, and children, court documents say.

Digital hate campaigns against the Rohingya on Facebook led to “communal violence and mob justice,” The Republic of the Gambia claims in the international court filings, as organized groups used “multiple fake accounts and news pages to spread hate speech, fake news, and misinformation for political gain.”

Facebook itself admitted that it was “too slow to respond to the concerns raised” regarding the violence, and said it will cooperate with Faruqi’s directive to provide public information on “hundreds of accounts, groups, and pages removed from its platform.”

Facebook called the order “sweeping and unprecedented,” and said it would leave “internet users’ private content unprotected and thereby susceptible to disclosure – at a provider’s whim – to private litigants, foreign governments, law enforcement, or anyone else.”

Whistleblowers Frances Haugen and Sophie Zhang have raised concerns over Facebook’s international security issues.

“Facebook’s consistent understaffing of the counterespionage, information operations, and counterterrorism teams is a national security issue,” Haugen said in a testimony to lawmakers earlier this month. “I have strong national security concerns about how Facebook operates today.”

Zhang, who was fired from Facebook last year, posted a 7,800-word memo detailing how she believed the company allowed authoritarian regimes around the world to manipulate its platform.

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A group of nearly 50 nonprofits has launched a campaign to ‘effectively end Facebook’s current business model’ in the wake of whistleblower testimony

Mark Zuckerberg.
  • A group of almost 50 nonprofits is trying to “stop Facebook” in the wake of multiple company crises.
  • It wants a data privacy law “strong enough to effectively end Facebook’s current business model.”
  • The effort was spurred by testimony from Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen last week.

Dozens of human rights organizations have started a campaign calling for action against Facebook following a week of turmoil for the tech giant.

The coalition of nearly 50 nonprofits launched a new website, HowtoStopFacebook.org, on Wednesday. The organizations backing the effort include names like the Center for Digital Democracy, the Government Accountability Project, Fight for the Future, and PEN America.

The groups launched the campaign in response to Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen’s testimony before Congress last week.

Haugen, a former Facebook employee, told a Senate hearing that the company has sown “more division, more harm, more lies, more threats, and more combat.” In recent weeks, Haugen had leaked tens of thousands of pages of company documents that laid the groundwork for a multi-part Wall Street Journal investigation into Facebook. The documents showed that Facebook knew Instagram negatively affects teens’ mental health and that employees were aware that a 2018 algorithm change would elevate false and politically divisive content.

“Whistleblower Frances Haugen has shined a light on how Big Tech companies like Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube use harmful algorithms to recommend content in order to maximize profit, and the mass surveillance and data harvesting practices that power the algorithms,” the petition reads. “Stopping these companies from amassing data by passing strong privacy laws that put people-not corporations-in control of our personal information will severely diminish these platforms’ harms.”

The groups are calling on Congress to subpoena information for an investigation into Facebook and to pass data privacy legislation that is “strong enough to effectively end Facebook’s current business model.” They’re also asking that the Federal Trade Commission “move forward with rule making that prohibits companies from collecting, purchasing or otherwise acquiring user information beyond what is needed to provide the service requested by the user, and from using this information for another purpose or to transfer it to another company without the user’s explicit, opt-in consent.”

“The best way to stop Facebook’s harms for the whole world is to cut off the fuel supply for its dangerous machine,” the new website says. “These dangerous algorithms use our own personal data to manipulate us. They’re hurting our kids, undermining democracy in the U.S. and globally, and exacerbating discrimination.”

Besides Haugen’s testimony, Facebook was hit with two outages in less than five days last week, affecting countless users around the world in a meltdown which many say highlights a growing need for antitrust action against the company.

Facebook did not respond to a request for comment.

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‘The most powerful person who’s ever walked the face of the earth’: How Mark Zuckerberg’s stranglehold on Facebook could put the company at risk

Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

  • Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has 55% of the company’s voting shares, giving him majority power.
  • Experts say it’s “a bad idea” for one person to hold so much control of a behemoth like Facebook.
  • The notion is more profound given leaked docs that show Facebook’s dismissal of its societal harm.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg holds 55% of voting shares in the company, former employee and whistleblower Frances Haugen brought up in front of Congress last week.

That’s significant, according to her, because it’s “a very unique role in the tech industry. She said “there are no similarly powerful companies that are as unilaterally controlled.” Or put more bluntly in another part of the hearing: “There is no one currently holding Mark accountable but himself.”

He is, essentially, Facebook’s “key man,” a person who has ultimate say in business decisions and without whom the firm would be heavily impacted.

Experts told Insider that there is cause for concern around one person having control over a controversial family of platforms that affect hundreds of millions of people.

“I don’t think it’s a stretch to argue that Mark Zuckerberg is the most powerful person who’s ever walked the face of the earth, and I think that kind of power being held by one person is generally a bad idea,” Whitney Tilson, a former hedge fund manager and CEO of Empire Financial Research, told Insider.

Zuckerberg’s outsized power has been debated for years

Company founders with majority control of a firm aren’t rare. It’s most prevalent in the tech world, where dual-class structures are common. Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, for example, stepped away from the giant in 2019 but remained on the board and collectively still have majority control of the company.

“You typically don’t have companies like GM or Ford or Bank of America that are controlled by any one investor,” Chris Haynes, an associate professor of international affairs and political science at the University of New Haven, told Insider. “This is not the norm.”

Proponents of the arrangement often say it allows company leaders to stay trained on long-term success without distractions from short-term pressures.

“Having a company controlled by a single person, ‘the brainchild’ when it comes to tech companies, it does make the company much more nimble, and they’re able to really turn a dime,” Haynes said, since they don’t have to get a lot of investors on board to make a decision.

But it can also slow things down. Facebook lists Zuckerberg’s outsize control as a potential risk factor for investors, saying it “could delay, defer, or prevent a change of control, merger, consolidation, or sale of all or substantially all of our assets that our other stockholders support.”

Critics say the control can shield companies from concerns that can harm society and investors, and it can cause volatility.

“I think you’re seeing that in the case of Facebook,” Haynes said.

Facebook has had a rocky few weeks after documents leaked by Haugen to the Wall Street Journal showed Zuckerberg and other insiders knew the company’s platforms had negative effects on the public and dismissed those concerns.

“Facebook is bigger than any religion in the history of the world, and there is 100% control residing in one man,” Tilson said.

Joy Poole, a former Facebook employee who’s now at the consulting firm Emergence, told Insider that lawmakers should “absolutely” explore how regulation could decide the amount of majority share CEOs have in their companies. But there may be more pressing issues.

“Mark Zuckerberg has majority control over a company with a tremendous amount of influence in the world,” Poole said. “I don’t believe for a minute though, that if he had 49% control, that we would magically find answers to the complex questions we are facing here.”

However, last week’s hearing with Haugen and her disclosure of internal documents to the US Securities and Exchange Commission could change things, Tilson said, though it’s not likely.

If the SEC investigation finds that Facebook misled investors by failing to disclose research of negative harm on teens, among other findings, then the agency could demand that he step down, according to Tilson.

“That would be the only way I can think of that would overcome his controlling voting shares,” he said.

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Facebook stock is testing a key 200-day support level after whistleblower allegations help spark 17% sell-off

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg (left) and former Facebook employee Frances Haugen.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg (left) and former Facebook employee Frances Haugen.

Facebook stock fell more than 2% on Tuesday, extending a month-long decline that has been accelerated by allegations from whistleblower Frances Haugen that the social media firm put profits before its users’ well being.

Haugen testified to Congress last week that Facebook’s engagement-based algorithms have helped fuel civil discord and that the company doesn’t do all that it can do to remove hateful and false content from its platforms. That, combined with an hours-long outage of Facebook properties including Instagram and WeChat last week, have sent shares tumbling.

Shares fell to a key support level that hasn’t been tested since early March: the rising 200-day moving average. As of Tuesday afternoon, the average stood at $317.14, while Facebook stock hit an intraday low of $317.37.

Moving averages are a lagging trend-following indicator that technical analysts use to smooth out price movements and help identify the direction of the current trend.

Traders view the the 200-day moving average, which is the average daily closing price of a stock over its previous 200 trading sessions, as a benchmark that often represents areas of significant support or resistance for a security.

If Facebook stock manages to decisively hold above its 200-day moving average, investors will likely look to the shorter-term 50-day moving average as the next key resistance level to be tested. The 50-day moving average currently sits at $358.40, representing potential upside of 11% from current levels.

Shares of Facebook are nearing bear-market territory, being down 17% from its record high reached on September 1, and investors are now hoping that the share price will stage a rebound at this crucial support level. The rising slope of the 200-day moving average would suggest to traders that the direction of the trend will remain up.

But Facebook has work to do in assuring investors that the company will be able to navigate Haugen’s testimony, the recent Instagram outage, and ongoing headwinds from Apple’s recent iPhone privacy update, which has hampered the reach of its advertising clients.

Facebook stock price
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Facebooks bad few weeks could leave it facing 2 threats even bigger than new laws, analyst says

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Testifies Before The House Financial Services Committee
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

  • Facebook’s brutal few weeks could lead to class action lawsuits and state attorneys general-led probes.
  • Analyst Blair Levin of New Street Research said that is a greater threat than potential regulation.
  • Litigation could force Facebook to share documents, which could include “problematic evidence.”

Facebook has had a brutal few weeks, and lawmakers now have increasingly more fodder to finally reign in Big Tech.

But the social network actually faces two threats bigger than potential federal regulation. According to Blair Levin of New Street Research, Facebook’s spate of bad press following leaks from a whistleblower and her subsequent congressional testimony could incite new class-action lawsuits or investigations by state attorneys general.

That’s because the court could force Facebook to make internal documents public, which could “yield even more problematic evidence for Facebook,” Levin said in an interview. Litigation could also cost the company a pretty penny – more than legislation would cost it – and a settlement could “address the issues more quickly than legislation.”

“In a Senate hearing, the strategy is to run out the clock,” Levin said. Tech CEOs, including Mark Zuckerberg, have appeared in such settings. “You can’t do that in a deposition,” where a company is required to share details under oath as part of litigation proceedings, he continued.

Levin said that more class action and state AG-led litigation could come from Facebook’s recent scandals, which began when whistleblower and former employee Francis Haugen shared internal documents with The Wall Street Journal and later testified before Congress that the firm prioritizes profits over people’s safety.

The Journal reported, among other things, that Facebook knew its Instagram platform was negatively impacting the mental health of young users, especially teenage girls.

Facebook has disclosed internal material in the past through legal battles, like when the Federal Trade Commission in 2021 accused the company of buying WhatsApp and Instagram to neutralize competition.

A judge eventually threw out, saying the FTC had insufficient evidence proving that Facebook is a monopoly, but not before emails Zuckerberg had written years ago were made public. “It is better to buy than compete,” Zuckerberg wrote in a 2008 email, according to the now-dismissed lawsuit.

According to the FTC, these messages showed he and others in leadership perceived Instagram and WhatsApp as rivals before Facebook bought them.

Levin said the most recent issues surrounding kids on Facebook’s platform are different because “more Americans care more about their children than they care about democracy, privacy, misinformation, and violence abroad.” The hearing lent credibility to the belief that it’s impossible for the tech industry to self-regulate.

Levin said possible litigation arising from the current news cycle could include lawsuits from parents who claim their children experienced trauma on a platform like Instagram. He said suits like that “are very hard to win,” but are still “problematic” for the company.

“These things don’t happen overnight,” Levin said, but we might start seeing litigation in response to Facebook’s recent problems within three to six months.

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Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal says Facebook is ‘proffering more talk & crocodile tears’ after executive defends the company following whistle blower report

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg (L). Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.)
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg (L). Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.)

  • Last week, a whistleblower said Facebook doesn’t address harmful content because of profits.
  • On Sunday, a Facebook executive defended the company in several interviews.
  • Sen. Blumenthal doubled down on analogies that the company is similar to Big Tobacco.

Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal said Facebook is “proffering more talk & crocodile tears about protecting children,” after a top executive defended the company in a round of Sunday interviews.

On Sunday, Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice president of global affairs, defended Facebook after a week of mounting criticism over a whistleblower report and testimony that the social media company knew its platform was harmful to children and did nothing about it, pushing back on analogies that the company was like Big Tobacco.

During a Senate hearing last week Blumenthal said Facebook was facing a “Big Tobacco moment.”

In an interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos, Clegg said the analogy was “misleading.”

“We’re a social media app that many, many people around the world use because it brings utility, it helps small businesses, it brings joy, it brings pleasure, it connects to you with people you care and love the most. That’s what Facebook is about.”

Following Clegg’s interviews, Blumenthal said in a Twitter thread that the company is focused on PR, not protecting children.

“More bromides & platitudes from Facebook on the Sunday shows. Their aim should be protecting kids, not winning PR. Unspecific, superficial generalities are no substitute for real action,” Blumenthal said.

Last Sunday, Frances Haugen, a former Facebook product manager, revealed she was the whistleblower who helped with The Wall Street Journal Facebook Files series, which detailed how Facebook leadership was aware of internal reports that showed the platform was causing harm but were not addressing the issue.

She said Facebook isn’t fighting the spread of disinformation and intentionally leaves up harmful content because it’s profitable.

“The thing I saw at Facebook over and over again 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,” Haugen said in an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes” last week.

She testified before a Senate committee on Tuesday.

Blumenthal on Sunday doubled down on the Big Tobacco analogy. “Facebook says Congress should pass reforms-but then behind the scenes it fights them with millions of dollars, armies of lobbyists & lawyers, & blizzards of ads. Another page from Big Tobacco’s playbook,” he said.

The senator added, if “Facebook is serious about helping to keep our kids safe online, it will cancel Instagram Kids, release its research, & support Mark Zuckerberg coming to my Commerce subcommittee to back real reform.”

Facebook did not respond to Insider’s request for comment at the time of publication.

Last week, Lena Pietsch, Facebook’s Director of Policy Communications told Insider in a statement that Haugen’s allegations were false.

“We’ve invested heavily in people and technology to keep our platform safe, and have made fighting misinformation and providing authoritative information a priority,” Pietsch said. “If any research had identified an exact solution to these complex challenges, the tech industry, governments, and society would have solved them a long time ago. We have a strong track record of using our research – as well as external research and close collaboration with experts and organizations – to inform changes to our apps.”

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Facebook exec Nick Clegg said he couldn’t give a ‘yes or no answer’ on whether its algorithms boosted insurrection sentiments ahead of Jan. 6 riot

20 January 2020, Bavaria, Munich: Nick Clegg, Head of Policy at Facebook, speaks on stage during the DLD (Digital Life Design) innovation conference. Clegg has defended the decision to stick to advertising with political content, unlike Twitter and Google.
20 January 2020, Bavaria, Munich: Nick Clegg, Head of Policy at Facebook, speaks on stage during the DLD (Digital Life Design) innovation conference. Clegg has defended the decision to stick to advertising with political content, unlike Twitter and Google.

  • A Facebook executive told CNN he couldn’t give “a yes or no answer” when asked whether its algorithms amplified pro-insurrection voices leading up to January 6.
  • A Facebook whistleblower testified before Congress last week, saying the company consistently resolves conflicts “in favor of its own profits.”
  • A member of the congressional committee investigating the January 6 Capitol insurrection said the whistleblower should testify before the committee.

Facebook Vice President Nick Clegg sidestepped questions on Sunday about whether its algorithms worked to the benefit of insurrectionists leading up to the January 6 Capitol riot.

When Clegg, who appeared Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union,” was asked about whether the site’s algorithms amplified pro-insurrection sentiments leading up to January 6, he said he couldn’t answer the question because the site has “thousands” of algorithms that determine a Facebook user’s experience. That includes “ranking algorithms” that determine which content a user sees frequently, he added.

“Given we have thousands of algorithms and you have millions of people using this, I can’t give you a yes or no answer to the individual personalized feeds each person uses,” Clegg told CNN’s Dana Bash on Sunday.

Clegg said that if the algorithms were removed, users would see more hate speech and misinformation.

Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen, a former data scientist at the company, testified before a Senate committee on October 5 after she leaked internal documents that raised questions about the company’s business practices.

As Insider previously reported, Haugen shared the documents showing the company knew Instagram negatively impacted the mental health of its young users, and that employees were worried that a 2018 algorithm change further promoted sensationalistic and divisive content.

Facebook has largely denied Haugen’s claims.

Since Haugen’s testimony, Rep. Adam Schiff, a Democrat on the select committee investigating the Capitol insurrection, has said Haugen should testify before the committee to “get internal info from Facebook to flesh out their role.”

In his interview with CNN, Clegg said the insurrectionists were the ones responsible for the Capitol siege.

“We cooperate with law enforcement, of course, to give them content that might have shown up on our platform, but let’s be clear,” he said. “Of course, January 6, the responsibility for that is for the people who broke the law, who inflicted the violence, who aided and abetted them, who encouraged them both in politics and in the media.”

Bash pressed Clegg on Sunday, asking if the company’s apparent uncertainty on the matter was problematic.

“The whole point, of course, of Facebook is that each person’s newsfeed is individual to them. It’s like a sort of individual fingerprint, and that’s basically determined by the interaction of your choices, your friends, your family, the groups you choose to be part of, and those ranking algorithms that I referred to earlier,” Clegg said.

In addition to fallout from the Congressional testimony, last week Facebook also dealt with a massive outage that impacted Facebook and all of its popular products, including Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger.

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‘SNL’ sketch on Facebook whistleblower hearing pokes fun at US senators’ disconnect with social media

snl facebook whistleblower
SNL’s Heidi Gardner portrayed Facebook Whistleblower Frances Haugen on Oct. 9 show

  • “Saturday Night Live” opened its show mocking the Facebook whistleblower hearing in DC this week.
  • Cast members portrayed former Facebook employee Frances Haugen, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and various US senators.
  • Haugen testified at a hearing this week criticizing Facebook’s negative impacts on society.

“Saturday Night Live” proves once again that Silicon Valley drama isn’t off-limits to the show’s satirical bite.

The late night variety show began its October 9 episode, hosted by Kim Kardashian West, with its a C-SPAN cold open covering this week’s Senate hearings from a Facebook whistleblower.

Former Facebook product manager Frances Haugen, played by SNL’s Heidi Gardner, responded to questions from a panel of senators, including Sen. Richard Blumenthal (Mikey Day), Sen. Diane Feinstein (Cecily Strong), Sen. John Kennedy (Kyle Mooney), and Sen. Ted Cruz (Aidy Bryant).

Cecily’s Feinstein kicked-off the proceedings, praising Gardner’s Haugen for her decision to come forward with Facebook allegations, before undermining it and citing”higher-priority” issues, like passing an infrastructure bill, raising the debt ceiling, and prosecuting the January 6 rioters.

“As a former Facebook engineer, I’m here today because I have seen firsthand how Facebook products harm children, stoke division, and weaken our democracy,” Gardner’s Haugen said in a serious tone.

The various senators followed with a slew of random social media questions, alluding to the senators’ generational disconnect when it comes to technology. Cecily’s Feinstein asked if “2,000 Facebook friends” was “a lot,” while Mooney’s Kennedy mistook an algorithm for a tangible object, asking “how big is this ‘algorithm?”

Bryant’s Cruz also chimed-in to parallel bullying toward teens widespread criticism of the senator online, claiming that hypothetical Facebook groups like “Ted Cruz Sucks” should be flagged misinformation.

“Ted Cruz sucks’ isn’t really misinformation,” Gardner’s Haugen replied. “It’s just one person’s opinion.”

The real Frances Haugen testified at a Senate hearing this week after revealing herself publicly as the Facebook whistleblower who leaked a trove of internal documents and research to the Wall Street Journal. The documents highlighted the tech company’s controversial practices, including its prioritization of profits over managing misinformation, extremism, and division.

The skit also made references to the highly popular Netflix show, “Squid Game”, and various online memes, further emphasizing the joke about the senators’ pop culture and social media ignorance.

The cold open ended with a short-lived appearance by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, played by SNL’s Alex Moffat, before cutting to MySpace cofounder, Tom Anderson, who Mikey Day’s Blumenthal called the “OG social media king.” In real-life, Mark Zuckerberg responded to Haugen’s claims in a 1,300-word statement, saying they “don’t make any sense.”

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Facebook exec Nick Clegg called Big Tobacco comparisons ‘extremely misleading’ but said the company needs to be ‘held to account’ after whistleblower testimony

Facebook executive Nick Clegg on ABC News' "This Week"
Facebook executive Nick Clegg defended Facebook amid mounting scrutiny during an appearance on ABC News’ “This Week.”.

  • Facebook executive Nick Clegg on Sunday defended the company against comparisons to Big Tobacco.
  • The social-media giant has been under intense scrutiny after a former employee publicly criticized the company.
  • While he defended the company, Clegg admitted Facebook needed to be “held to account.”

Nick Clegg, who works as the vice president for global affairs and communications at Facebook, defended the social-media company Sunday in an interview amid mounting criticism and a turbulent week.

“I think it’s extremely misleading analogy,” Clegg said of comparisons to Big Tobacco. “We’re a social media app that many, many people around the world use because it brings utility, it helps small businesses, it brings joy, it brings pleasure, it connects to you with people you care and love the most. That’s what Facebook is about.”

At a Senate hearing last week, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, said “Facebook and Big Tech are facing a Big Tobacco moment.”

As Yahoo! News reported, the comparisons stem from the idea that Facebook is aware its products can be harmful in the same way tobacco companies knew their products were dangerous years before they publicly disclose them.

Clegg deemed such analogies “overblown and somewhat simplistic,” comparing them to other analogies that equated video games to drugs.

“But I think if there’s any silver lining to this week is that maybe we can now move beyond the slogans, the sound bites, the simplistic caricatures and actually look at solutions and, yes, of course, regulation,” Clegg said.

In an interview the aired on CBS’ “60 Minutes” last Sunday, former Facebook data scientist Frances Haugen claimed the company isn’t actually fighting the spread of disinformation as it claims. She claimed that Facebook intentionally left harmful content on the platform because it was profitable and removing it would cost them users.

As Insider previously reported, Haugen also shared the documents showing Facebook knew Instagram negatively impacted the mental health of its young users, and that employees were worried that a 2018 algorithm change further promoted sensationalistic and divisive content.

In testimony before the Senate last week, Haugen called on Congress to create a regulatory agency to regulate Facebook and other tech companies, though she rejected the idea that Facebook should be broken up into smaller companies.

“It’s in everyone’s interest,” she said.

Facebook and its founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg have largely denied Haugen’s claims.

When asked about the testimony on Sunday, Clegg said Facebook needed to be more transparent so the public could hold it accountable.

“We understand that with success comes responsibility, comes criticism, comes scrutiny, comes responsibility, and that’s why we’re, you know, the first Silicon Valley company to set up an independent oversight board that independently adjudicate on these difficult content decisions,” he said.

Clegg said Facebook was submitting its data on content it removed from the platform to an independent auditor.

“Again, no one has done that before, because we realize we need to be held to account,” he said.

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