5 takeaways from Facebook whistleblower’s EU Parliament testimony – POLITICO

European lawmakers have a historic alternative to set the worldwide guidelines for social media, Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen advised the European Parliament on Monday.

After a morning assembly with Commissioner Thierry Breton and Danish Socialist MEP Christel Schaldemose, the American knowledge engineer headed to the Parliament in Brussels to elucidate how her insights into the tech behemoth may apply to the EU’s upcoming content material moderation guidelines, the Digital Services Act (DSA).

“The Digital Companies Act that’s now earlier than this Parliament has the potential to be a world gold normal,” stated Haugen. “It will probably encourage different nations, together with my very own, to pursue new guidelines that may safeguard our democracies.”


The Parliament is engaged on the tremendous print of the DSA, a invoice that goals to impose new restrictions on how tech corporations like Facebook and Google police content material on their platforms.

Listed here are 5 takeaways from the three-hour listening to: 

1. Preaching to the choir 

As anticipated, the welcome lawmakers prolonged was greater than heat. 

Earlier than the listening to, many posted selfies and photos on Twitter thanking Haugen for her testimony. In the course of the listening to they praised her “braveness,” loudly applauded her statements and requested for her recommendation on what they need to do to make sure that the DSA has enamel. 


“Frances Haugen reconfirms why we’re performing on the EU degree on the Digital Companies Act … Lots of her issues are already addressed, however we want to verify this works in observe and makes an actual change,” stated Dita Charanzová, who works on the DSA on behalf of Renew Europe. 

In return, Haugen referred to as EU lawmakers “a lightweight within the darkness.” In brief, it was a love affair. 

2. Watch out for loopholes 

Haugen warned the European Parliament towards creating loopholes within the Digital Companies Act. 

“The satan shall be within the particulars. For instance, if you happen to write a broad exemption from transparency for something categorised as a ‘commerce secret,’ the businesses will say every part is a commerce secret,” she advised lawmakers. 


Firms shouldn’t be allowed to make use of commerce secrets and techniques as “an excuse” to refuse entry to knowledge, she added, highlighting the significance of better entry to Facebook’s inside workings for unbiased researchers, investigative journalists and NGOs. 

Haugen additionally warned that information media shouldn’t be exempted from the Digital Companies Act, as a result of the principles must be impartial to combat dangerous content material reminiscent of disinformation. 

“Let me be very clear — each fashionable disinformation marketing campaign will exploit information media channels on digital platforms by gaming the system,” she stated. 

3. Haugen’s testimony gained’t change Europe’s content material guidelines

Whereas a few of her recommendation and warnings echo pleas made by NGOs — notably on the media exemptions — the direct influence of Haugen’s testimony on the ultimate laws is unclear. 

Regardless of questioning round on-line advertisements and the way Facebook’s algorithms works — hot-button points on the middle of a bitter combat throughout the European Parliament — Haugen’s statements didn’t land a knock-out punch to sway the talk both method.

She didn’t again a full-blown ban on focused promoting, depriving lawmakers who’ve advocated it of a much-needed ally.

For the Digital Companies Act, the true combat is now between the European Parliament, European Fee and member nations, which can collect early subsequent yr to hammer out a closing compromise on the content material proposals. Haugen’s proof is a footnote in that upcoming battle. 

4. Facebook is worse than its rivals 

One in every of Haugen’s key messages is that misgivings about Facebook’s operations shouldn’t condemn the whole tech enterprise, and that in reality the U.S. social media large is committing worse infractions than its rivals. The whistleblower has beforehand labored at different tech corporations together with Google, Pinterest and Yelp, and was capable of evaluate the best way they function. 

“The alternatives being made by Facebook’s management are an enormous drawback — for kids, for public security, for democracy — that’s the reason I got here ahead,” she stated. “And let’s be clear: it doesn’t need to be this fashion.”

In the course of the listening to, Haugen in contrast Facebook to one in every of its predominant rivals, Twitter, arguing that Jack Dorsey’s firm was “considerably extra clear,” accountable and conscious of what’s on its platform. Some overseas manipulation operations taking place on Facebook have been even caught by Twitter, she stated.

5. MEPs have discovered their lesson 

The final time MEPs had a high Facebook govt in the home, it was Mark Zuckerberg, and European lawmakers made fools of themselves. The format — MEPs requested their questions in a row earlier than Zuckerberg may reply — was ridiculed after the Facebook CEO simply managed to dodge each bullet. 

In contrast to Haugen, Zuckerberg was most undoubtedly not hailed as a hero, so the context was completely different, however the questions requested again then confirmed a lack of information and experience with regards to tech. 

Three years later, that has modified. Lawmakers are actually dealing with a flurry of tech payments aiming to control synthetic intelligence, to foster digital competitors and restrict the market energy of tech juggernauts, and to ramp up cybersecurity.

MEPs questioned Haugen about technical particulars, from automated content material programs, to encryption, and interoperability.

Mark Scott and Samuel Stolton contributed reporting.

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