FACEBOOK WHISTLEBLOWER FRANCES HAUGEN TO KLOBUCHAR: “Facebook knows that they are leading young users to anorexia content”
WASHINGTON – At today’s Commerce Committee hearing with Facebook Whistleblower Frances Haugen, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) questioned Haugen about how Facebook’s algorithm pushes pro-eating disorder content to vulnerable populations, including teenage girls.
In response, Haugen told Klobuchar that “Facebook knows that they are leading young users to anorexia content.”
Klobuchar has been a long-standing leader in ensuring that Americans can access treatment services for eating disorders. Her bipartisan Anna Westin Act, which included provisions to increase training and education on eating disorders and ensure parity for insurance coverage of residential treatment of eating disorders, was passed by the Senate in 2016.
The bill was named in honor of Anna Westin of Chaska, Minnesota, who was diagnosed with anorexia at the age of 16. Despite the urgency of her condition, her family was informed that they had to wait until their insurance company ‘certified’ Anna’s treatment, ultimately delaying and limiting the treatment Anna received. After struggling with the disease for five years, Anna died at the age of 21.
Sen. Klobuchar: Another major issue that’s come out of this: eating disorders. Studies have found that eating disorders actually have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness for women, and I led a bill on this with Senators Capito and Baldwin, that we passed into law, and I’m concerned that these algorithms that they have pushes outrageous content pushing anorexia and the like. I know it’s personal to you. Do you think that their algorithms push some of this content to young girls?
Ms. Haugen: Facebook knows that their engagement-based ranking, the way that they pick the content in Instagram for young users, for all users, amplifies preferences, and they’ve done something called a proactive incident response, where they take things that they’ve heard – for example, like, can you be led by the algorithms to anorexia content – and they have literally recreated that experiment themselves and confirmed, yes, this happens to people. So Facebook knows that they are leading young users to anorexia content.
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