By Ginger Fagerstroem
The definition of a whistleblower is a person who informs on a person or organization engaged in an illicit activity, and in 2021 Frances Haugen became known as the Facebook Whistleblower. Ms. Haugen had been working at Facebook for almost two years when she decided to come forward and prove to the public that Facebook did not have its consumers’ best interests at heart.
Frances Haugen was the lead project manager on the company's civic integrity team at Facebook. After joining the company in 2019, Ms. Haugen was disturbed by Facebook's decisions that put their own interests and profits ahead of public safety. In May 2021, fed up with the dishonesty she was seeing at her workplace, Frances left her position at Facebook. Unbeknownst to the company, she took with her thousands of documents to support her claims against her former employer.
Ms. Haugen approached John Tye, the founding attorney of the non-profit organization Whistleblower Aid, and not long after, in the summer of 2021, Frances began meeting with members of the US congress to discuss her concerns and show them her evidence. Ms. Haugen stated that the content on Facebook platforms was not only harmful to children but also spread misinformation that she believed could weaken the strength of Democracy.
The students interviewed at Harbord Collegiate for this article were not surprised to learn of Ms. Haugen’s accusations towards Facebook. Grade nine student, Nico Cassar said: “What Facebook has been doing isn't okay but most stuff social media does isn't okay so I’m not really like, wow, that's so crazy.”
This whistleblower testimony will be remembered as a historic crisis for Facebook and possibly the most threatening. When asked about the consequences the platform might face, grade nine student Madison Cheung said: “Facebook has been having a lot of controversies but it's a big platform so I don't know.”
Facebook's popularity has been shrinking and the company is becoming more recognized for its many issues. Madison's thinking was on track; the investors and advertisers didn't run away after the allegations and claimed Facebook scandals typically reach a peak and then rapidly decline. “It's terrible but I know it's not going to change,” said grade nine student Anna Michelle Matkivska. Despite the lack of consequences the platform has faced so far, Frances Haugen is not discouraged and has started a non-profit with the goal of making social media healthier.
Although Facebook's stakeholders are still supporting the company it remains to be seen whether the whistleblower testimony from Ms. Haugen will dissuade the public from using the platform further or if more employees will be encouraged to step forward.