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The Facebook whistleblower in Brussels

The Facebook whistleblower in Brussels

After London and Lisbon and before Paris, the Facebook whistleblower, Frances Haugen, continues her tour of Europe, this Monday in Brussels, where the European Union is counting on her testimony to give a boost to the projects of regulation of digital giants.

The former employee of the American giant renamed Meta, met the European Commissioner for the Internal Market Thierry Breton, at the origin of two draft legislation (DSA and DMA), presented in December 2020. She must speak at the end of afternoon in front of the MEPs who are debating these texts.

“A digital Wild West”

“We have seen the impact that large platforms can have on our democracies and societies, in particular on the well-being of our children”, declared the French commissioner at the end of his interview with Frances Haugen, affirming the determination of the EU to regulate “what still looks like a digital Wild West”.

“The increased lobbying efforts that we are witnessing are wasted effort: we will not allow business interests to interfere with the general interest of Europeans,” he warned, calling for the adoption of the Regulation on services (“Digital Services Act”, DSA) and the Regulation on digital markets (“Digital Markets Act”, DMA) in the first half of 2022, during which time France will hold the rotating presidency of the EU.

Facebook puts 5 billion for security

The hearing of the whistleblower by the European parliamentarians should make it possible to “better understand the techniques that Facebook, but also other Internet gatekeepers (” gatekeepers “), use to control the flow of data”, a German MEP Andreas Schwab (EPP, right) said on Twitter, calling for the EU to adopt a “clear legal framework”. The French Geoffroy Didier (PPE) judged “essential” to “open the black box that are the systems of algorithms” used by these platforms to recommend content.

The DSA wants to prohibit platforms from using these algorithms to promote false information and dangerous speech, with for the most important of them an obligation of means to moderate the content. Frances Haugen, who has already testified before American and British parliamentarians, accuses Facebook in particular of spreading online hatred and disinformation by using a system that prioritizes content that makes the most clicks.

Affirmations denied by the American giant, which underlines the efforts made to fight against this content, assuring that it would “devote more than 5 billion this year to the safety” of users and employ for this task “more than 40,000 people “. “We have almost halved the amount of hate messages people see on Facebook over the past three quarters,” said Monika Bickert, vice president of Meta.


Some elected officials, such as German MEP Anna Cavazzini (Greens), also call for a ban on targeted advertising, which is at the heart of the economic model of the tech giants, a provision which is however not planned as it stands. in the European regulatory project. “The incentive to collect more and more data and make money from it would disappear, and that would therefore also reduce hate speech,” she argued.

But such an outright ban, also demanded by NGOs and consumer associations, would not garner the necessary votes in Parliament: the EPP and Renew Europe (centrists) are opposed to it, as are member states, in particular France and Germany, according to sources in Brussels. Slovenia, which holds the EU presidency until the end of 2021, is working to get EU governments to adopt a common position on these EU bills at a meeting on November 25. For their part, the MEPs leading the discussions are betting on a compromise by early 2022.

Monday in Brussels, Frances Haugen received a list of the signatories of a petition in support of his actions, which represent more than 80,000 people, according to the NGO SumofUs. Frances Haugen “finally gives us tangible proof of what activists, researchers and civil society have always suspected (…) Her coming here therefore fuels the debate on the legislation that must be adopted, and we hope that it will be adopted. ”Said activist Flora Rebello Arduini.

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