The departure of number 2 from Meta/Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, will probably not change much in the behavior of the Californian giant, estimates in an interview with AFP Frances Haugen, the former employee who accuses Facebook of systematically favoring its profits at the expense of the safety of its users. your users
After 14 years with the group, which has become an internet giant under her leadership, Sheryl Sandberg announced last week that she was leaving Meta.
The choice of his replacement, Javier Olivan, shows that the group “does not listen to the fundamental criticisms that are leveled at it”, says the whistleblower.
In announcing his promotion, the boss and founder of Meta (Facebook) Mark Zuckerberg praised the “solid balance sheet” of Javier Olivan, who until now was responsible for the commercial “growth” of Facebook.
This department embodies “many things that I consider problematic” in the company, underlines Frances Haugen, who will participate Thursday afternoon, by videoconference, at the International Cybersecurity Forum (FIC) in Lille.
Asked about these statements by AFP, Meta did not immediately react.
Facebook’s commercial and financial growth has been accompanied by a growing distrust of the social network’s social impact, fueled by questions about the platform’s role in attempts at disinformation and electoral manipulation.
According to Frances Haugen, if Sheryl Sandberg wasn’t always able to stand up to Mark Zuckerberg, it was she who tried to respond to criticism of Facebook’s role.
“It was she who put into practice services that were concerned with the safety of people living in fragile places, such as Ethiopia”, he said, referring in particular to Facebook’s “response strategy” team, capable of quickly intervening in crisis situation.
Frances Haugen, on the other hand, is “cautiously optimistic” about how things are going on Twitter, another big social network in the spotlight for its role in disinformation, which multibillionaire Elon Musk plans to buy off the Exchange.
“Part of the reason Facebook makes bad decisions is because it’s a public company,” she said. If Musk takes Twitter off the stock market, “it will have the opportunity to do the necessary cleanup” without fear of driving down the stock price, she said.
Elon Musk wants Twitter to take much stronger action against bot-powered accounts, at the risk of reducing the social network’s audience and therefore its advertising resources.
– Security more “taken seriously” –
In general, the young woman does not regret having taken on this role as a global whistleblower about the excesses of social networks.
“I was really encouraged that leaders around the world were giving us serious attention,” she says. “And a lot of reporters told me that on Facebook, security discussions are taken much more seriously internally, thanks to my disclosures.”
Facebook has doubled its annual spending on security from $2.5 billion to $5 billion, she said.
More generally, Frances Haugen welcomes the debates taking place in the US on social media and welcomes the Digital Services Act (DSA), the new European legislation that seeks to bring some order to the digital jungle.
And she continues her struggle: forcing social networks to be more transparent about their algorithms and the way they influence opinion and behavior.
She is raising funds to create a social media simulation tool, which could be used by scientists to study the effects of algorithms in detail.
“The debates on social media, and what they should be, have changed,” she says.