Over the last few days, I’ve been captivated by the words of corporate whistleblower Frances Haugen, a former employee of Facebook. Repeatedly, Haugen’s stirring witness has caused me to think deeply about my/our collective engagement with social media. Haugen’s testimony…and the documents that she was able to smuggle out of Facebook…leave no doubt that these companies have created an addictive product that monetizes the pain and suffering of others. I don’t know of anything more evil. These revelations/interactions have forced me to engage a difficult question… Would Jesus use Facebook? I used to answer that he would use it purely for communicative purposes and not spend too much time on it otherwise. Now, I’m not so sure. The quotes from Haugen below illustrate that any time on Facebook contributes to the suffering of others. The Jesus I know has always been about eliminating suffering.
“The thing I saw at Facebook over and over again was there were conflicts of interest between what was good for the public and what was good for Facebook. And Facebook, over and over again, chose to optimize for its own interests, like making more money.”
“I’m here today because I believe Facebook’s products harm children, stoke division and weaken our democracy.”
“The company’s leadership knows how to make Facebook and Instagram safer, but won’t make the necessary changes because they put their astronomical profits before people.”
“When we live in an information environment that is full of angry, hateful, polarizing content it erodes our civic trust, it erodes our faith in each other, it erodes our ability to want to care for each other, the version of Facebook that exists today is tearing our societies apart and causing ethnic violence around the world.”
“Facebook has realized that if they change the algorithm to be safer, people will spend less time on the site, they’ll click on less ads, they’ll make less money.”
“And what’s super tragic is Facebook’s own research says, as these young women begin to consume this– this eating disorder content, they get more and more depressed. And it actually makes them use the app more. And so, they end up in this feedback cycle where they hate their bodies more and more. Facebook’s own research says it is not just that Instagram is dangerous for teenagers, that it harms teenagers, it’s that it is distinctly worse than other forms of social media.”
“Facebook has demonstrated they cannot act independently Facebook, over and over again, has shown it chooses profit over safety.”
In the light of Frances Haugen’s testimony, how shall we now live?