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Everybody Hates Facebook

Debra Saunders on

Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen and Facebook itself share a vocabulary that reflects current sensibilities. They both talk about making Facebook "safe" -- as proofs of the social media giants' role in making America uglier pop up daily.

Tuesday, Haugen testified on Capitol Hill in an effort to get Facebook to clean up its act. Sunday night, she told "60 Minutes" that some organizers used Facebook to facilitate the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

Based on company documents she leaked, The Wall Street Journal reported the company cooked its newsfeed algorithm in 2018 in ways that made Facebook an "angrier place."

The latest example: Not only did activists follow Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., into the bathroom this week to pressure her to vote their way; worse, these clowns were so proud of their own little Jan. 6 moment that they posted video of themselves hectoring at Sinema outside her bathroom stall.

Company research also found that Instagram, owned by Facebook, "triggered" unhealthy body image issues and made girls feel worse about themselves.

As Haugen was testifying, I attended a Faith Angle Forum in Napa, California, at which San Diego State University psychology professor and author Jean M. Twenge gave a compelling talk about how social media contributes to anxiety and depression among teens who spend less time interacting with people and more time with their eyes glued to their smartphones. Her charts illustrated how the proliferation of smartphones in 2012 drove teens into virtual life and away from what used to be real life.

 

Haugen has a compelling David versus Goliath story that confirms what almost everyone who uses social media knows: Platforms that are supposed to bring us together are driving people apart.

Still, I fear that her testimony and The Wall Street Journal's reporting on her leaked documents will lead to the usual Washington overreaction.

Haugen believes Facebook needs more hall monitors. That's probably true, but it's hard to get enthusiastic when we know how Big Tech was heavy-handed in squelching free speech on the right during the 2020 election and how it suppressed unorthodox COVID-19 viewpoints.

As personally relieved as I am not to be bombarded with former President Donald Trump's unending grievances online, Facebook and Twitter wrongly took it upon themselves to muzzle a former president who won 74 million votes in November. They used a bulldozer when only a scalpel was needed. By being so clearly one-sided, Big Tech sowed more distrust and division.

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