What, exactly, does Facebook know about you – the answer is surprising

October 4 – 60 Minutes interviewed Frances Haugen last night. Haugen is a former product manager for Facebook and her whistleblowing revelations are quite astounding.

She says Facebook knows its sites are being used to spread hate, violence and misinformation – and that Facebook is collecting a whole lot of data from its users.

Users like you.

Attorney Clint Barkdoll, Pat Ryan and Michele Jansen discussed the revelations about Facebook this morning during the Big Talk on First News.

Ryan said, “I can’t help but think to myself, well, you got Trump off of there. You’ve kicked all the conservatives off of there, you throttle everybody back when they push back from things. So I can’t help but think, let’s see now, hate, violence and misinformation. All you’ve got left on there is a bunch of lefties.”

Haugens will testify before Congress tomorrow. She was the head of the Public Integrity Unit that was disbanded after the 2020 election. Before she left, she copied a lot of internal memos and information, some of which have been turned over to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Barkdoll said, “The two things that really jumped out at me in the interview, one was she revealed that in 2018, Facebook changed its algorithm so that content is being pushed out to you as a user, not only based on your interest and your usage, but they’re pushing out things that are controversial. Things that will force you to react, maybe in a negative way. The thinking behind this, scientifically is you’re going to be more engaged with the platform, the more of that kind of content is being pushed out to you. That’s a way then for Facebook to not only keep you on the platform longer, but they can exploit that with advertising and what’s called data mining. She confirmed of course that is happening and in conjunction with that, the point is if you’re relying on Facebook, if you’re on there all day, every day and you’re relying on that for your news, just your information of the world, you’re basically being manipulated. She confirmed that they’re using all these algorithms that create these avatars. They know everything about you. They know what your interests are. They know where you live, where you work. Are you married? Do you have children? And all of that information is constantly being mined to push out information, push out advertising to you and it continues to kind of just go into what would be called a confirmation bias. It’s continuing to feed you information that they know you’re going to most agree with but will also garner the most reaction out of you to keep then pushing it out to your own friends and network. This thing is really controversial. It’s a real mess and I still think after tomorrow when she testifies before Congress, you’re likely going to see the government get involved in this in some form, whether it’s more regulation or is this starting to look more and more like big tobacco? Facebook knows it’s harmful for your mental health, but they keep pushing out the product.”

Jansen pointed out, “What’s ironic to me is this is a person that wouldn’t agree with many conservatives and people who, because we say we don’t want these companies trying to control speech. She’s actually upset that they didn’t control it more, according to what they said they were going to do. She’s upset because they seem to be selective about which dangerous data and information was getting out compared to others that might help their platform and actually foment some of this stuff. So it’s not that she’s some kind of conservative crying, oh they should be allowing everything. She was actually of the other mindset saying you’re not stopping enough of this conspiracy theory stuff and that’s why January 6 happened, which I find very interesting.”

Barkdoll added, “She’s pointing out, too, that back in 2019 in the European Union elections, they were using these algorithms then and they had internal research that clearly showed that voters and users of Facebook, they would pick up on a lot of these sort of conspiracy theories or this disinformation and run with it in a way that very well may have influenced the outcome of the EU elections in 2019. Again, she’s saying Facebook was fully aware of this and not only did they not stop it, they kept ramping up the program because they knew that people would get more engaged the more of this kind of information they would see on their daily feeds.”

Jansen said, “To think how this manipulates election is terrifying. We know that information was held back and things were throttled back. I think it drastically affected our 2020 election and the fact that they have knowledge of it, provably, is very scary.”

Barkdoll said, “Even beyond elections, it just sounds like there’s so much of this that as a user, the kind of science behind it is you don’t realize that you’re being manipulated. You don’t realize that they’re using all of this information to get information and whether it’s things about COVID, whether it’s things just about your local environment, your local community, they’re synthesizing all of that data constantly.”

Apparently even if you have your Facebook page open and you’re searching other websites, Facebook can pick that up too. Think about from your internet searches what they could be finding.

Barkdoll said, “That’s very valuable because they’re able then to push out information to you that might be suited to those interests or ads to you that might be suited to those interests. I don’t think the public realizes how sophisticated these platforms have become.”

Jansen said, “I talked about last week how we have this explosion of so-called Tourette Syndrome, pseudo Tourette Syndrome, which is a terrible tic disorder that causes people to have lots of social issues and problems because they have no filter and they’re shouting things, it’s hard to get into in depth. We just found out there’s research that indicates, especially teenage girls, and she made a point of saying they know very well that teenage girls and young women are more susceptible than other people. By the way, another indication that men are different from women. Boys are different from girls because they girls are being affected very much so. They know this stuff’s happening. We see kids developing a disease that they don’t really have because of social media. It’s absolutely proven from these neurologists being able to test these girl’s brains to see they really don’t have this disease. This is pretty horrifying and no wonder girls are finding out their bodies are bad. I’m sorry but in the trans non-gender binary world, we see girls and young women all the sudden deciding that they have these issues. We have to get serious about understanding the effects of social media on the brains, especially of girls and young women, but of everybody.”

Barkdoll predicted, “I think you may hear some of that tomorrow at this Congressional hearing with this whistleblower. You look at some of the Power Point and memos that she leaked, very in-depth research about the adverse mental health effects on children and teenagers, particularly girls, when it comes to Facebook and Instagram. Facebook owns Instagram. Not only was Facebook aware of these problems, but she’s saying that they even were looking at a product that was going to push this stuff out even more to children. They were talking about trying to integrate Facebook and Instagram with children’s play dates. So they would get them hooked and addicted to these things even at younger ages. Now they pulled back on that I think once some of this information started to come out, but if you’re sitting on a Congressional panel, at what point does this start to look like some kind of consumer protection problem, just like we saw with cigarettes? And what if any action might you see the government take on this?”