Saturday, November 27

Facebook whistleblower cites violence in Myanmar and Ethiopia, and spying from China and Iran

(CNN) — During Tuesday’s long-awaited testimony before the Senate Consumer Protection subcommittee, Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen repeatedly pointed out outside the country examples of how the social network could be used for dangerous purposes, to the point that lawmakers wondered during the hearing whether they should meet to specifically discuss national security concerns.

The former product manager referred to a number of links between Facebook activity and deadly violence in Myanmar and Ethiopia. He also spoke of spying from China and Iran.

“My fear is that if it is not acted upon, the divisive and extremist behaviors that we see today are only the beginning. What we saw in Myanmar and now in Ethiopia are the first chapters of a story so terrifying that no one wants to read the end.” Haugen said, referring to the recent bloodshed in both countries.

Facebook admitted in 2018 that it did not do enough to prevent the spread of hateful posts against the persecuted Rohingya minority in Myanmar. Since then, he has vowed to limit the spread of “disinformation” in the country after the military coup at the beginning of the year.

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When asked by a senator whether Facebook is used by “authoritarian or terrorist leaders” around the world, Haugen replied that such use of the platform occurs “without a doubt”, and that Facebook is “very aware” of it.

China and Iran, in the complaint against Facebook

His last role on Facebook was on the company’s counterespionage team. According to her, “it worked directly on monitoring Chinese participation in the platform, monitoring, for example, Uighur populations around the world.”

“You could find the Chinese on the basis that they do this kind of thing,” he said.

In March, Facebook security personnel revealed that Chinese hackers had targeted Uighur activists and journalists living outside the country with fake Facebook accounts and malicious software.

Haugen’s team also observed “the active participation of, for example, the government of Iran spying on other state actors. This is something that is definitely happening,” he said.

This summer, Mike Dvilyanski, Facebook’s head of cyber espionage investigations, told CNN that the company had deactivated “fewer than 200 operational accounts” on its platform associated with the Iranian spy campaign, and notified a similar number of Facebook users. that could have been the object of the group.

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However, Haugen blamed “a consistent understaffing of (Facebook’s) counterintelligence and terrorism intelligence operations team” for the continued proliferation of such threats, and said he was also speaking to other parts of Congress about it.

The revelation prompted Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, to suggest that national security issues be further explored in the future.

Classification based on commitment

According to Haugen, the engagement-based ranking – which amplifies content that prompts users to “like”, “share” or “comment” – is “literally fueling ethnic violence” in countries like Ethiopia, which is torn by deep regional and ethnic divisions.

“I encourage these platforms to be reformed, not by choosing individual ideas, but by making ideas safer, less edgy, less viral, because that’s how we solve these problems in a scalable way,” he said.

Although Facebook has developed measures to mitigate the danger, they are applied unevenly in all the world’s languages, Haugen said.

“Facebook also knows, has publicly admitted, that engagement-based classification is dangerous without integrity and security systems, but then it hasn’t deployed those integrity and security systems in most of the world’s languages. And that’s it. what is causing things like ethnic violence in Ethiopia, “he said.

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Facebook’s response

After the hearing, Facebook issued a statement in which it tried to discredit Haugen and refute “his characterization” of many issues.

“Today, a Senate Commerce subcommittee held a hearing with a former Facebook product manager who worked for the company for less than two years, had no direct reports, never attended a decision-making meeting with senior executives C – and testified more than six times that he was not working on the issue in question, “the statement said, Tweeted by spokesperson Andy Stone.

“We do not agree with his characterization of the many issues on which he testified. Regardless, we agree on one thing: it is time to start creating standard rules for the Internet,” he said.

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