Whistleblowing requires courage, but don’t expect Facebook to change its ways | John Naughton

Frances Haugen, a modern, shrewd whistleblower, is the woman for you. Former Facebook employee Frances Haugen revealed that while the company knew of the damage that certain products, including Instagram, caused, it did not do anything about them. The company prioritized growth and revenue over all else.
To establish your street cred, a good CV is crucial. Haugen has it all. A degree in electrical engineering? Check. A Harvard MBA? You can check. Are you an expert in algorithmic management? You can check. Do you have experience with and knowledge about ranking algorithms in a variety of tech companies? You can check (Google, Pinterest and Yelp). You will have also held a significant position within the company you are leaking the details. Haugen is a good example of this: she was at Facebook the lead product manager for the civic misinformation group, which dealt with misinformation and democracy. She later worked in counterespionage.

Finally, you must provide evidence from your former employer that is incriminating. Haugen did that, too. She is a whistleblower who resembles Edward Snowden, who was able to get a remarkable collection of documents from the National Security Agency (NSA) when he broke the cover in 2013. Haugen was able to accomplish things Mr Snowden couldn't do in 2013, even though she left Facebook.

What does whistleblowing 2.0 look and feel like? After you have stolen thousands of documents from the company, you must create a plan to extract maximum public value. You would want a media advisor in a perfect world. It is not known if Haugen had one. You will also need a website, which she already has.

You will need to work with mainstream media outlets who can help you get your message across without being overshadowed by the defamatory statements of your former employer. Give them a lot of documents so they can review them and plan a drip feed of juicy bits over the next few days. Haugen, for her part, signed up with both the Wall Street Journal TV documentary strand and 60 Minutes.

It is still lacking the political will to confront Facebook's astonishingly profitable abuse.

Also, you will need to provide some documents to certain regulators and legislators so they can make a lot of indignation and curiosity. You will be invited to attend the hearings they have scheduled on your revelations and you will be a prominent witness. You will be invited to testify in similar cases in other jurisdictions. This will increase the likelihood that the world will learn about the scheming of your ex-employer.

One more thing. It is important to convey a positive message. Frances Haugen also ticks this box: Frances believes that social media is a solution to the current problems. Social media can bring out the best of humanity.

This is not meant to sound like criticism of Haugen. Whistleblowing is not easy for anyone who believes it. To speak truth to power, you need courage, determination, and the ability to weather media storms. She has displayed all three of these virtues. It is not clear whether whistleblowing is effective, even if it is done as skillfully as she has. Is it a way to bring about meaningful change?

Take Snowdens case. Snowden's revelations were truly sensational and revealed the incredible scale and extent of electronic surveillance by the NSA (and its allies). In the years after 9/11, it was evident that democratic oversight of electronic surveillance in western countries was woefully lacking.

Many countries were shocked by the revelations. But what really happened? The US did not have much. After three separate investigations, the UK saw a new act by parliament, the Investigatory Powers Bill 2016, which replaced insufficient oversight with slightly more effective oversight, and gave the security service a number of new, useful powers.

What will happen to the Haugen revelations? My suspicion is that it won't, as the political will to address Facebook's outrageously profitable abuse remains lacking. Haugens testimony tour, which she will be making to Parliament here on Monday, will provide great copy and legislative grandstanding. Her revelations will not have any impact on regulation. Os Keys, Wired, says that there are no new laws, regulations or new challenges.

It is a myth to believe that the truth will make good. Legislators, corporate executives, and regulators all depend on the right information in order to do justice. Autocracies are the only ones capable of controlling companies like Facebook. We are not yet there.

What I've been reading

Abuse and misuse

Wilfred McClay's beautiful essay, Performative: How the Meaning and Use of Words Became Corrupted, is available in The Hedgehog Review.

It's not the first time.

Mar Hicks, Wired's historical historian Mar Hicks presents Facebook's Fall from Grace looks a lot like Fords.

Too much of a good quality thing

Chris Hayes' long essay on the futility and overuse of the Internet is "On the Internet, Were Always Famous" in the New Yorker.