Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg broke his silence over a scandal that struck the company in an email to employees on Tuesday and complained about the “wrong image” of the social networking giant. The email, also posted on Zuckerberg’s Facebook account, follows a congressional hearing on Facebook’s impact on users.
“I’m sure many of you found the latest coverage difficult to read because it just doesn’t reflect the company we know,” Zuckerberg wrote in the email. “We care deeply about safety, wellbeing and mental health.
“It’s hard to see coverage that misrepresents our work and our motives,” he continued. “Basically, I think most of us just don’t see the wrong picture of the company that is being painted.”
Zuckerberg’s comments come after Frances Haugen, a former Facebook product manager who leaked thousands of internal documents about the company,, claims that its products “harm children, fuel divisions and weaken our democracy”.
The documents she leaked formed the basis of a series of articles by the Wall Street Journal that concluded, among other things, that the company was ignoring research into how Instagram can harm teenage girls and that it made an algorithm change to make the interaction easier to improve on the platform that was actually carried out users “angrier”. Facebook claims that the Wall Street Journal misrepresented its research.
HaugenSunday on 60 Minutes alleges that “Facebook has consistently chosen to optimize for its own interests, such as making more money.”
In his Tuesday post, Zuckerberg dismissed claims that the company was most interested in profits, saying “this is just not true”. He also defended a recent change to an algorithm that pushes content into users’ newsfeeds.
“This change showed less viral videos and more content from friends and family – which we knew because we knew people would spend less time on Facebook, but that research suggested that this was right for people’s wellbeing “, Wrote Zuckerberg. “Is that something a company would do that is more focused on profits than people?”
He also addressed the impact of its platforms on teenagers, saying it is important to him that the products Facebook builds are “safe and good” for children.
“Think how many school-age children have phones,” he wrote. “Instead of ignoring this, technology companies should create experiences that suit their needs while keeping them safe.”
Zuckerberg pointed to Facebook’s decision to halt development of a children’s version of Instagram that would include parental controls.
“Given all the questions about whether this would actually be better for children, we paused this project to take more time to talk to experts and make sure that everything we do is helpful.”
Zuckerberg also pointed out that he is campaigning for updated internet regulation, a point Haugen addressed in her testimony on Tuesday, telling lawmakers the company needed greater oversight and should disclose more information.
“Congress can change the rules by which Facebook plays and stop the many damage it is now causing,” Haugen told a Senate subcommittee.