“People in Africa are getting a raw version of Facebook which is more dangerous,” Frances Haugen said in her address to UK Members of Parliament.
The Facebook whistle-blower has been giving evidence to UK MPs and peers scrutinising the online safety bill, amid calls for a toughening up of the landmark legislation.
Haugen has triggered a deep crisis at Mark Zuckerberg’s social media empire after she released tens of thousands of internal documents detailing the company’s failure to keep its users safe from harmful content.
The committee was set up to scrutinise the draft version of the bill before MPs start voting on the actual legislation as it starts its passage through parliament.
This is a process sometimes used with bills to ensure potential problems are addressed before the voting starts. It is a mechanism that tends to be deployed when the issues are particularly complex, and the government is anxious to obtain cross-party support.
Haugen left Facebook earlier this year, but took thousands of documents when she did so, providing them to the Wall Street Journal.
That newspaper ran a series of articles which Facebook considered to be negative – and, it contends, mischaracterised the source material.
But the allegations – that Facebook knew that Instagram was damaging to teenagers’ mental health, for example – led to her being invited to testify to politicians and regulators around the world.
Her appearance in London comes at a crucial time in the debate about tech regulation, as the Online Safety Committee considers additions and tweaks to the proposed new rules.
Proposed additions include whether online abuse of women and girls should become a legal offence.