President Donald J. Trump welcomes Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019, to the Oval Office of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Joiyce N. Boghosian)

Facebook whistleblower, Frances Haugen, is set to tell Congress that Facebook is hiding vital information about how it works to avoid regulation. The Financial Times reports:

Facebook has hidden vital information about the way it works from the public and governments around the world in an attempt to avoid being regulated more strictly, a whistleblower has told Congress.

“During my time at Facebook, I came to realise a devastating truth: almost no one outside of Facebook knows what happens inside Facebook,” Frances Haugen, who worked as a product manager in Facebook’s civic integrity unit and left the company earlier this year, told the Senate commerce committee on Tuesday.

“The company intentionally hides vital information from the public, from the US government, and from governments around the world.”

Haugen is the source for a series of articles and interviews that have caused a fresh public relations crisis for Facebook about how its products affect society and vulnerable users, including teenage girls. The company is already facing a lawsuit from the Federal Trade Commission accusing it of anti-competitive behaviour, along with the prospect of stricter government oversight.

The social network also suffered a significant outage on Monday, with all of its platforms, including WhatsApp and Instagram, going offline for several hours.

Haugen called for the social media company to be regulated more like tobacco or car companies, a call that senators on the committee echoed.

“Congress has to intervene”, said Richard Blumenthal, the Democratic chair of the consumer protection subcommittee. He said he supported federal privacy regulation and limiting the company’s legal protection from being sued for content posted by its users, and said the US Securities and Exchange Commission and FTC should investigate Haugen’s claims.

Haugen has also made eight complaints to the SEC, accusing Facebook of concealing a years-long decline in younger users in the US. Allegations that Facebook “misrepresented” its “reach and frequency” metrics form one of those complaints, which were first reported by CBS News.

The complaint about Facebook’s reach said that “for years, Facebook has misrepresented core metrics to investors and advertisers including the amount of content produced on its platforms and growth in individual users”, especially in “high-value demographics” such as US teenagers.

“By delivering too many ads to users that the advertisers did not want to pay for, Facebook overcharged advertisers on a vast scale,” the complaint said.

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