Facebook faced the “worst outage” in years, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a post on October 6 and issued an apology for the troubles users faced as most of the social networking giant’s services went down for nearly six hours on Monday. Zuckerberg also put out a staunch defence against the accusation that Facebook prioritised profit over safety. In a long note to Facebook employees, Zuckerberg said that the media coverage misrepresented the company’s “work and our motives.” “Many of the claims don’t make any sense,” he added. A whistleblower has testified before the US Congress about a trove of internal documents that reportedly show how the company pushed for higher profits while being cavalier about user safety.
Frances Haugen, a former product manager at Facebook, said the social media giant keeps its algorithms and operations a secret. One of her main arguments was that Facebook’s business model is based on the News Feed algorithm and engagement is such that it allows users to interact with content that can be harmful. She also talked about Facebook’s internal research that showed Instagram can have a negative impact on young people.
“The argument that we deliberately push content that makes people angry for profit is deeply illogical,” Zuckerberg said in the note, which he also shared on his Facebook page.
“We make money from ads, and advertisers consistently tell us they don’t want their ads next to harmful or angry content. And I don’t know any tech company that sets out to build products that make people angry or depressed.”
While Zuckerberg has made several counterarguments in defence of Facebook’s policies, he did not touch the topic of whether he will also testify before the Congressional committee that Haugen spoke to in his 1,300-word rebuttal.
He also addressed the accusation that Facebook’s introduction of Meaningful Social Interactions to News Feed led to people seeing more harmful content, saying this change showed fewer viral videos and more content from friends and family. This meant, he added, people would spend less time on Facebook but they did it because it was “the right thing for people’s well-being.”
This was the first public response from Zuckerberg to the whistleblower’s claims and comes after Facebook and its other social media platforms suffered a nearly six-hour global outage that impacted more than 3.5 billion users worldwide on Monday.