Inside Facebook's fractured regime where 'engineers SPIED on women' and Zuckerberg struggled to control Big Tech

FACEBOOK suffered a major outage this week, losing millions in the process and plunging the business into chaos for a number of hours.

But behind the scenes things have been fractured at the social media giant for some time, with accusations that it stifles competition and fails to crack down on disinformation.


In fact, on Tuesday former Facebook data scientist Frances Haugen told Congress that the social network giant’s products harm children and fuel polarization in the U.S.

She said executives refuse to make changes because they elevate profits over safety.

But questions over Facebook's motives are nothing new and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been forced to try and defend the site he started with his Harvard College roommates nearly 20 years ago.

ELECTION MEDDLING

In 2017 it emerged Russia operatives had meddled in the US election a year prior.

A year later in 2018 Zuckerberg was forced to issue a public apology over a “breach of trust."

That came after Cambridge Analytica got its hands on data on 50 million users.

Reports by the time suggested "employee morale had slumped" at the social media giant and Zuckerberg was facing a share price drop.

The Financial Times wrote: "Zuckerberg knows that he faces an uphill struggle to fix Facebook."

He responded by telling employees: "We’re a very different company today than we were in 2016, or even a year ago.

"We’ve fundamentally altered our DNA to focus more on preventing harm in all our services, and we’ve systematically shifted a large portion of our company to work on preventing harm."

BILLIONS OF USERS

But since then he has faced claims that company, which boasts 3.5 billion users worldwide and nearly $1 trillion in market value, is failing to address the mental health of its users, particularly young teenage girls.

The company has faced advertising boycotts and widespread calls to quit the network.

And the Facebook CEO's net worth dropped by $7billion on Monday following the outages.

But it's not just at executive level where problems have risen to the surface.

A book released earlier this year reveals how engineers have been accused of spying on women they have dated.

An extract from An Ugly Truth: Inside Facebook’s Battle for Domination published in The Telegraph reads: "One engineer used the data to confront a woman who had travelled with him on a European holiday."

ZUCK 'UPSET'

It adds: "Another engineer accessed a woman’s Facebook page before they had even gone on a first date.

"He saw that she regularly visited Dolores Park, in San Francisco, and he found her there one day, enjoying the sun with her friends."

The book details how Zuckerberg was left "clearly taken aback" and "upset" when it was first mentioned to him in September 2015.

But as the authors noted: "No one in the room pointed out that it was a system that he himself had designed and implemented."

Former employee Haugen, 37, on Tuesday came forward with a wide-ranging condemnation of Facebook.

The Harvard grad secretly copied thousands of pages of internal research documents before leaving her job in the company’s civic integrity unit.

Haugen has filed complaints with federal authorities alleging that Facebook’s own research shows that it amplifies hate, misinformation and political unrest, but the company hides what it knows.

She insists: "Facebook, over and over again, has shown it chooses profit over safety."

WORLDWIDE OUTAGE

Her testimony came a day after a worldwide outage plunged Facebook, Instagram and the company’s WhatsApp messaging platform into chaos.

Facebook said late Monday that “the root cause of this outage was a faulty configuration change” and that there is “no evidence that user data was compromised as a result” of the outage.

The company had also asked a federal judge that a revised antitrust complaint against it by the Federal Trade Commission be dismissed because it faces vigorous competition from other services.

Facebook maintains that Haugen’s allegations are misleading and insists there is no evidence to support the premise that it is the primary cause of social polarization.

Like fellow tech giants Google, Amazon and Apple, Facebook has for years enjoyed minimal regulation in Washington.

'DEFENSIVE AND DISMISSIVE'

But the social media giant appears to have moved away from apologizing in the latest criticisms leveled at it.

“Even with the most sophisticated technology, which I believe we deploy, even with the tens of thousands of people that we employ to try and maintain safety and integrity on our platform, we’re never going to be absolutely on top of this 100% of the time,” Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice president of policy and public affairs, said.

As Zuckerberg works to control the giant he created, former vice president Brian Boland told The Washington Post: "They’ve moved away from talking about responsibility and an apologetic stance to one that is much more aggressive, defensive and dismissive."

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