Facebook whistleblower says company's efforts to protect children are a "placebo"

 November 8, 2023

A whistleblower who formerly worked at Facebook's parent company says the corporation is allowing children to be abused. 

According to the BBC, Arturo Béjar was previously employed by Meta, the social giant that owns both Facebook and Instagram.

Béjar said his own daughter had no way to report abuse

Béjar spent two stints working for Meta, his first running from 2009 and 2015 while the second ran from 2019 until 2021.

Although he left the company with a sense that it was "going in the right direction," a personal experience changed his mind.

Béjar told the BBC that "shortly after she went on Instagram, she started getting unwanted sexual advances — misogyny, harassment at 14."

"When we would talk about this… it turns out that all of her friends were experiencing the same. I was shocked. She said there was nothing [she] could do, because [she] had no option to report it," Béjar recalled.

Whistleblower says Meta's efforts are a "placebo"

Béjar previously served as director of engineering at Facebook, and he argued that it would be "easy" for the platform to create a button empowering teens to flag messages that contain sexual advances.

"I can speak first hand about how easy it is to build a button and a counter," Béjar was quoted as saying. "I believe that the reason that they’re not doing this is because there’s no transparency about the harms that teenagers are experiencing on Instagram."

The BBC noted that a spokesperson for Meta provided a statement insisting that "countless people inside and outside of Meta are working on how to help keep young people safe online."

While the statement stressed that Meta has introduced "over 30 tools" as part of this effort, Béjar dismissed them as being simply a "placebo for press and regulators."

Béjar testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee

"They’re not based on the data of what people are experiencing," he complained. "What you would expect to be able to ask them on this is, what percentage of teens experienced unwanted sexual advances?"

"If you go into [Instagram] messages, I could not find any option that says: this is an unwanted advance," the former Facebook employee added.

In addition to speaking with the BBC, Béjar also appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday where testified on Meta's failure to protect children.

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