Frances Haugen Thinks Mark Zuckerberg Needs to Acknowledge His Power
Produced by ‘Sway’
The Facebook whistle-blower Frances Haugen leaked a treasure trove of internal documents to the press and testified before Congress about the extent to which the tech giant fuels political polarization and erodes the mental health of teenagers. In this conversation with Kara Swisher, Haugen contemplates how Facebook has gotten away with it for so long. She discusses the company’s focus on seemingly objective metrics, the fixation with free speech and censorship debates and a general “fetishization with flatness” most clearly seen in the company’s large open-floor offices. All of this, says Haugen, allows Mark Zuckerberg to shirk responsibility: “When you refuse to acknowledge that power exists, you actually end up reinforcing the fact that power isn’t flat in the world.”
Haugen thinks Facebook’s leaders should instead focus on the design choices they enable and reward every day, arguing that it would cost Facebook a small fraction of its profits to address some of the thorniest problems that plague the platform and its users.
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Swisher and Haugen discuss her journey from Day 1 on the job to the moment she decided to blow the whistle. Kara presses Haugen, who is no longer a Facebook employee, on why she was ever optimistic about the social media platform and how it is different from any of the other Silicon Valley companies that appear on her résumé. And Haugen shares why — after all she’s seen and all that’s transpired — “if I could work at Facebook again, I would go and work at Facebook again.”
This episode contains strong language.
(A full transcript of the episode will be available midday on the Times website.)
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“Sway” is produced by Nayeema Raza, Blakeney Schick, Daphne Chen, Caitlin O’Keefe and Wyatt Orme and edited by Nayeema Raza; fact-checking by Kate Sinclair, Michelle Harris and Kristin Lin; music and sound design by Isaac Jones; mixing by Isaac Jones and Sonia Herrero; audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Special thanks to Kristin Lin and Mahima Chablani.