WASHINGTON, Oct.5 (Reuters) – US lawmakers hammered on Facebook (FB.O) on Tuesday, accusing CEO Mark Zuckerberg of pushing for higher profits while being cavalier on user safety and they asked regulators to investigate the whistle-blowing accusations that the social media company harms children and stirs up divisions.

During a Senate Commerce Subcommittee hearing, whistleblower Frances Haugen called for transparency on how Facebook encourages users to extend their stay on the site, giving them plenty of opportunities to raise awareness. advertising.

“As long as Facebook operates in the shadows, hiding its research from public scrutiny, it is irresponsible,” said Haugen, a former employee of the nearly $ 1,000 billion company who has gone on to become a pitcher. alert.

“Company management knows how to make Facebook and Instagram safer, but will not make the necessary changes because they have put their astronomical profits ahead of people. Congressional action is needed,” Haugen said.

(Also read: Facebook asks judge to dismiss lawsuit to force sale of Instagram, WhatsApp)

At a time when two-party politics are rare in Washington, lawmakers from both parties have lambasted the company, illustrating growing congressional anger against Facebook amid numerous demands for legislative reform.

Senator Dan Sullivan, a Republican, said he was concerned about how Facebook and its affiliates like Instagram were affecting children’s mental health. “I think we’re going to look back 20 years from now and we’re all going to be like ‘what the hell were we thinking? “”

(Also read: Senator Asks Facebook CEO to Answer Teen Safety Questions)

Haugen has revealed that she was the one who provided the documents used in a Wall Street Journal investigation and Senate hearing into Instagram damage to teenage girls. She compared social media sites to addictive substances like tobacco and opioids.

Panel chair Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, said Facebook knows its products are addictive. “Technology is now facing this great moment of breathtaking truth about tobacco,” he said.

He asked Zuckerberg to testify before the committee and to the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the company.

“Our children are the victims. Today’s adolescents who look at themselves in the mirror feel doubt and insecurity. Mark Zuckerberg should look at himself in the mirror,” Blumenthal said.

Blumenthal said after the hearing that he would like to ask Zuckerberg why he rejected recommendations to make the company’s products safer for users.

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Former Facebook employee and whistleblower Frances Haugen testifies at a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee hearing titled “Protecting Kids Online: A Facebook Whistleblower Testimony” in Capitol Hill, Washington, States United, October 5, 2021. Jabin Botsford / Pool via REUTERS

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Despite criticism, Facebook’s share price rose 2.2% to $ 333.43 by mid-afternoon on Tuesday.

Facebook’s stock through previous crises

A day after Facebook suffered a multi-hour outage, Haugen pointed out the outage in his testimony: “For more than five hours, Facebook has not been used to deepen divisions, destabilize democracies and ensure that young girls and women feel bad in their bodies. ”

As lawmakers criticized Facebook and Zuckerberg, company spokespersons fired back on Twitter, arguing that Haugen was not working directly on some of the issues she was asked about.

Haugen, a former product manager for Facebook’s civic disinformation team, left the company with tens of thousands of confidential documents.

Senator Marsha Blackburn, a Republican, accused Facebook of turning a blind eye to children under 13 on its sites. “It is clear that Facebook prioritizes profit over the well-being of children and all users,” she said.

Facebook spokesperson Lena Pietsch challenged Haugen’s knowledge of the company’s inner workings. “We do not agree with her description of the many issues she has testified to,” Pietsch said in a statement.

Last week, Facebook’s global head of security, Antigone Davis, defended the company in Congress and said it was looking to publish additional internal studies in an effort to be more transparent about its findings.

Senator Maria Cantwell, chair of the Trade Committee, said she would write a letter to Facebook to insist it does not remove documents related to Myanmar’s persecuted Rohingya Muslim minority. An assistant said she would ask for more extensive retention of the documents.

Haugen said she would encourage “public scrutiny and scrutiny” of how content algorithms work and their consequences. She suggested creating a specialized body within the federal government to oversee social media companies.

Blumenthal said he may want to hold an additional hearing to discuss national security concerns related to Facebook.

Haugen said Facebook has also done too little to prevent its site from being used by people planning violence.

Facebook was used by people planning massacres in Myanmar and the Jan.6 assault on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump who were determined to reject the 2020 election results.

Senator Edward Markey, addressing the absent Zuckerberg, said at the hearing: “Your time to invade our privacy and prey on children is over. Congress will take action.”

Throughout the hearing, lawmakers characterized Zuckerberg as navigating instead of facing his responsibilities. The CEO released a video this weekend taken with his wife’s new company smart glasses in a boat.

Reporting by Diane Bartz, Elizabeth Culliford, David Shepardson and Sheila Dang; Editing by Grant McCool

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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