by Andrew Orlowski
Wednesday, 27
October 2021
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Who’s behind Frances Haugen?

The campaign against Facebook has a synthetic quality to it
by Andrew Orlowski
Frances Haugen.

The current campaign against Facebook has a curiously synthetic quality to it.

Media organisations seeking to publish stories based on Facebook whistle-blower Francis Haugen’s material now need to sign up to a ‘consortium’, and agree to a release schedule and embargoes, all co-ordinated via Slack.

Similarly, for legal representation, Haugen chose Mark Zaid’s Whistleblower Aid, which had previously represented an official who claimed Trump inappropriately petitioned the Ukrainian president in a phone call. Her PR advice comes from executives with deep Democratic Party ties.

And then there’s the testimony itself. During her appearances in Parliament this week, Haugen has shown a willingness to advance opinions not just on the material she saw and the internal policies she engaged with, but what should happen next to Facebook. These are oddly specific. For one, the whistle-blower dismissed demands for a breakup of Facebook’s empire, instead backing the creation of state regulator. This earned the contempt not just of antitrust campaigner Matt Stoller, but Glenn Greenwald too, who described Haugen as a ‘false flag’ operation for advocating a regulatory model that would put Democrats in control of what speech is permissible on the platform.

The campaign now also has wealthy foundations lining up behind it, too. For example, Pierre Omidyar’s Luminate, which has funded dozens of privacy and data NGOs in the UK and Europe, recently announced a change of emphasis to focus primarily on Facebook instead. This week at Westminster I passed a slick anti-Zuckerberg art installation, funded by an American NGO with no previous UK presence — journalists were invited to call a US number for an explanation.

Meanwhile the $400m donation in the 2016 election by Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan goes largely unreported. This intervention handed the election machinery in many districts to activists, and conservatives allege that this disproportionately helped Democrat candidates.

Finally, there’s the curious absence of scrutiny on Google, whose YouTube video monopoly is often cited as a prime source for radicalisation, but which appears to have a free pass. (To the delight of conspiracy theorists, Google had paid for Haugen’s Harvard MBA during her stint with the company).

All of this doesn’t constitute a plea for sympathy for Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg, who remains a uniquely unlovable. Nor should the questions derail public debate of how to deal with genuine harms on Facebook’s properties, from suicide groups for teens to extremists. But for those who do care about such issues, the politicisation of Facebook regulation by Cathedral opinion may prove an unhelpful distraction. It is possible to view the attention on Big Tech as long overdue and yet at the same time, feel some unease about such a well-funded and co-ordinated international effort to seize control of our communications media.

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James Joyce
James Joyce
11 months ago

It is simply wrong to call Frances Haugen a “whistleblower.” She is merely a disloyal FB employee who stole and revealed FB’s internal documents.
What did she blow the whistle on? That FB is not keeping us “safe?” Safe from what? FH, this disgusting thief, is a “do-gooder,” (not a compliment) and has an extreme radical agenda based on her view that she knows best and will give us what she thinks is best for us.
She is also part of a much larger trend where employees feel absolutely no loyalty to the companies that hire them, pamper them, and pay them exceedingly well. Many do not want to even show up for work. FH seems to be a “global citizen,” whose duties are to the world, not to her employer–and she is a Harvard Business School graduate.
A “whistleblower” is someone who reveals criminal conduct that is in the public interest: XYZ company is illegally dumping toxic materials into a lake, ABC company has made defective parts for airplanes. What FH did is reveal that FB gave users more of what they want. See the difference?

George Glashan
George Glashan
11 months ago
Reply to  James Joyce

Facebooks crime was that it failed to deliver the Presidency for Hillary and came too close for comfort with Biden, they need regulatory oversight to ensure that only the correct content is shared with deplorables.

Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
11 months ago
Reply to  James Joyce

All excellent points, Mark.

James Joyce
James Joyce
11 months ago

Mark?

Laura Cattell
Laura Cattell
11 months ago
Reply to  James Joyce

Of course. All those lies and misinformation. Isn’t that why they banned Trump?

ralph bell
ralph bell
11 months ago

Despite the fact that the most hateful content is found on ‘Twitter’, it is hardly mentioned by the UK media in this campaign. I agree this FB attack feels totally professionally planned and orchestrated.

Laura Cattell
Laura Cattell
11 months ago
Reply to  ralph bell

So Facebook doesn’t have hateful content. Hmm. Interesting.

Glyn Reed
Glyn Reed
11 months ago
Reply to  Laura Cattell

He didn’t say that.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
11 months ago

I found this an interesting article. Without knowing half of what the article describes I’d had a feeling that she seemed very “convenient” in a number of ways.

The article proposes one feasible set of motivations. I suspect there might be others. Certainly that she is just a woman with a message who has suddenly managed to get it in front of all sorts very powerful interests is stretching credibility.

Matt B
Matt B
11 months ago

Why is it that so much from across the pond these days is so toxic?

Laura Cattell
Laura Cattell
11 months ago
Reply to  Matt B

Everyone here seems to be doing just fine without any prompting.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
11 months ago
Reply to  Laura Cattell

What’s eating you today?

Warren T
Warren T
11 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Apparently, no one.

Warren T
Warren T
11 months ago

It is quite odd that a “whistleblower” is setting into motion an ad campaign from a huge public company to beg the government to regulate them more. Sounds very fishy!

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
11 months ago

Yes, I’m sure there are plenty of dirty tricks and agendas at play, but bring it on I guess.

Rod McLaughlin
Rod McLaughlin
11 months ago

“A synthetic quality”

Nicely put.

I wouldn’t be so nice.
https://imgur.com/a/snx0aRq

Last edited 11 months ago by Rod McLaughlin
J Bryant
J Bryant
11 months ago

The possibility this anti-Facebook campaign is orchestrated is gaining more attention. There’s a good article about it on The Spectator.
If you want to go full conspiracy theory, Haugen might be acting on behalf of Facebook; seeking to blunt any move to break it up with some tame form of government regulation being preferable.

Karl Schuldes
Karl Schuldes
11 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Of course it was orchestrated. It was probably directed by Steven Spielberg. The message was, “Facebook didn’t do enough censoring of conservatives.”

Bart Cypers
Bart Cypers
11 months ago

The concerted push towards greater oversight of social media is yet another reason for me to suspect more and more western politicians cast an eye upon China’s authoritarian model and think to themselves: “if only we wielded that kind of power in our countries. We could get so much done…”

…before quickly adding, perhaps to soothe their consciences “but there’s nothing to fear, because we’d use such authoritarian power only to do good”