FB whistleblower’s nonprofit launches project to document Big Tech’s ethical failures

Gelo Gonzales
FB whistleblower’s nonprofit launches project to document Big Tech’s ethical failures

FRANCES HAUGEN. Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen speaks during an interview with Reuters ahead of a meeting with German Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht, in Berlin, Germany, on November 3, 2021.

Michele Tantussi/Reuters

Frances Haugen's Beyond The Screen nonprofit is a 'coalition of technologists, designers, and thinkers fighting against online harms'

MANILA, Philippines – Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen’s newly launched nonprofit organization Beyond The Screen kicked off with an open-source database that aims to document ways Big Tech companies are failing their “ethical obligations to society” and outline possible solutions, multiple news sites reported on Thursday, September 22. 

Haugen is a former product manager at Facebook who made headlines in 2021 after leaking internal company documents that allegedly illustrate the company’s failures in protecting teen girls from harm on Instagram and its inability to clamp down on vaccine misinformation. Facebook, now named Meta, has disputed the allegations. 

Beyond The Screen represents Haugen’s latest effort in holding Big Tech, especially social media companies, accountable. The plans for the nonprofit were first reported in June 2022 by Politico. Haugen told the publication then: “Before (my revelations), each of us could only see what was on our own screen…. What changed with the disclosures is that we now know what’s going on beyond our own screens. It changed the calculations on how we all approach these companies.”

She also revealed then initial plans for the nonprofit to assist lawyers when approaching cases relating to social media companies, create a metric that will show investors how social media companies keep users safe, and create an artificial social media network that will simulate scenarios for regulators and researchers. 

The project launched today is called the “Duty of Care” initiative, which is headlined by the open-source database that hopes to keep social media companies accountable for harmful practices as well as offer solutions. It will also pool expertise from academics, litigators, and technologists studying the harms done by social media, and working on identifying best deterrence practices.

The initiative will be done in collaboration with Project Liberty by US organization McCourt Insitute, which seeks to “transform how the internet works” and “create a more equitable digital economy.”

“This collaboration will support the development of a ‘Duty of Care’ product designed to hold social media platforms accountable to their users and society, and to provide much-needed insight and tools so that individuals, investors, policymakers, and others can judge how social media companies perform in terms of user safety, market value, and more. By articulating the harms driven by social media and identifying levers to prevent or mitigate such harms, the collaboration ultimately aims to help create an ecosystem of incentives for social media platforms,” Project Liberty said in a press release

“With this collaboration, Duty of Care is well positioned to make social media platforms more accountable and ensure that powerful networks are optimized for the public interest,” Haugen said. – Rappler.com

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Gelo Gonzales

Gelo Gonzales is Rappler’s technology editor. He covers consumer electronics, social media, emerging tech, and video games.