Appearing before a senate subcommittee on Tuesday, ex-Facebook engineering director and consultant Arturo Bejar accused the tech giant of not doing its part to protect teens on its platforms. He went on to add that for years, top executives, including Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, have ignored warnings on the harms that Meta platforms like Instagram cause to teens.
Bejar’s testimony is the latest instance of a Meta whistleblower publicly accusing the tech giant of knowingly ignoring issues that would be too costly or difficult to address with its existing policies and technologies.
Arturo Bejar worked for the Big Tech company behind Facebook and Instagram between 2009 and 2015 and once again from 2019 to 2021. His key job responsibilities included ensuring the better protection of users on Meta’s platforms.
However, his appeals to Zuckerberg and other top Meta officials about protecting teens and other users against the harms they face against Instagram were allegedly fruitless.
In his testimony, Bejar told the Senate Judiciary Committee that Meta fosters a “see no evil, hear no evil” policy. The tech giant knowingly overlooks internally presented evidence of harm while downplaying the issue by publishing biased metrics publicly, the ex-Facebook employee alleged.
Bejar added that according to his research findings, over 25% of 13-to-15-year-olds have reported being sexually advanced on Instagram.
Bejar initially assumed that things were headed in the right direction until his 14-year-old daughter’s experience on Instagram convinced him otherwise and prompted him to start an investigation with his team.
She had to deal with sexual advances, misogyny, and harassment shortly after joining the platform, the whistleblower said in an interview.
Upon talking to her, Bejar discovered that her friends were experiencing the same issues. However, with no option to report it, there was nothing she could do.
However, he feels that while these issues shouldn’t be hard to counter, it’s Meta’s lack of transparency about the harms faced by teens that keep the company from addressing the problem.
It’s worth noting that almost exactly two years ago, another ex-Meta employee named Frances Haugen leveled similar accusations against the company.
Haugen, who is a member of the Council for Responsible Social Media, presented a large number of internal documents that she claimed were evidence that Instagram was well aware of how the platform was harming children. Speaking about Bejar’s research in an interview on Tuesday, Haugen called it “a smoking gun”.
In an official statement released in response to the allegations, Meta spokesman Andy Stone said that countless people in Meta are working on ensuring the online safety of young users every day. While Meta no longer runs the user perception survey that Bejar worked on, it still runs other types of user perception surveys.
We have also introduced over 30 tools to support teens and their families in having safe, positive experiences online.Andy Stone
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