Former Facebook employee Frances Haugen has taken the world by storm by stealing and sharing reams of company communications in which the social media giant’s cavalier attitudes toward a range of behaviors among its users are revealed. She compares what she regards as “the Facebook problem” with earlier corporate revelations in history which led to legislation regulating tobacco and automobile use, and she emphasizes that children are specifically at risk from the company’s policies. The disgruntled former employee also alleges that Facebook products—in particular, Instagram—harm young women by promoting unhealthy and unrealistic body images.
Despite the vagueness and generality of these complaints, Haugen is being hailed as a “whistleblower” by everyone who agrees with her ideological and political perspective, which is as plain as day: textbook neoliberal, big government, pro-Democratic Party. The objective of the Frances Haugen insurgency is equally manifest: to implement formal government censorship of social media platforms, a literal Ministry of Truth, for “the good” of the people who use them.
The mere fact that Haugen has been granted such an impressive platform and portrayed throughout the mainstream media as some sort of heroine does not imply that she is a “whistleblower” any more than calling the innocent people killed by bombs “collateral damage” somehow exonerates the killers for their completely avoidable acts of homicide. Frances Haugen, whose vast and highly visible media tour has been funded by Pierre Omidyar (according to Glenn Greenwald, formerly of The Intercept, which, too, is funded by Omidyar), is not, let us be perfectly frank, a whistleblower. This is yet another case where language has been redefined to support a particular political program. Just as “assassination” became “targeted killing” and “torture” became “enhanced interrogation techniques” when authorized by the U.S. president, the concept of “whistleblower” has now been rebranded to cover people who speak out in ways approved of by the very people who provide the speaker with a platform for airing grievances with which all “good” people will agree, with the ultimate aim of expanding the orchestrators’ own domain of power and control.
In reality, Haugen has “revealed” only that the social media platform founded by Mark Zuckerberg has not been conducting itself in the manner in which Haugen’s associates want it to. Spectacularly enough, Haugen alleges that publicly traded Facebook has been run as—wait for it—a profit-driven company. One might immediately dismiss such a complaint as a failure on the part of the so-called whistleblower to understand the nature of business in a capitalist society. But Haugen holds an M.B.A. from Harvard University. Presumably in securing that credential she was taught that publicly traded companies work for their shareholders and aim to maximize profit. That’s what they do. Sure, there are plenty of “woke” companies, which launch “socially conscious” initiatives, but those activities are part and parcel of the marketing apparatus. Erecting a “woke” façade apparently improves the image of a company and thereby increases the sales of its products—at least to the woke. I am not intending here to express cynicism but to state the uncontroversial fact that publicly traded companies which do not keep their shareholders happy eventually fail. Should “wokeness” cut into profits—by alienating self-styled “anti-woke” or “based” customers—then it is bound to be curtailed, at least in the case of any competently run company.
The fact that Haugen has secured such a wide-ranging audience is all the more remarkable given that nearly everyone already knew that Facebook was a profit-driven company. That is precisely why when one creates an auxiliary page at the platform, to promote a book or a small business or product, virtually nobody who likes or follows the page is ever alerted to new content posted there, unless the page owner forks over some funds. The page feature is no doubt a huge moneymaker for the company, as many users feel that it is worth putting Facebook on credit card autopay to ensure that someone—anyone—will see what they have to sell—or to show and to tell.
Ms. Haugen, who touts her own personal risk as evidence of her sincerity, may have stolen documents from Facebook and violated her NDA (nondisclosure agreement), but she has not uncovered any litigable crimes. That’s because private businesses have the right to run their companies and, in this case, moderate their content, as they please. We know that the Big Tech social media giants censor posts and exclude people who post what they identify as “disinformation” or “hate speech.” Up to now, this has been regarded by many liberty advocates as perfectly acceptable, on the grounds that private companies have every right to remove content which they themselves find objectionable or to banish users who violate their terms of service. In their backyard, people must play by their rules. Now, however, the issue has become a test of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which states:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
This provision limits not private businesses but only the government. Indeed, it is specifically designed to protect the people from the government, not to protect the government from the people. Anyone who labels Haugen a “whistleblower” has succumbed to an incredible con job, whereby the First Amendment is to be entirely negated by creating a government-run regulatory body whose role will be to censor content directly, not indirectly, as has been done until now. I wholeheartedly agree with Glenn Greenwald that the reason for this initiative is not that Facebook has acted criminally in maximizing profit but that they have not been subservient enough to government pressure already put on them to prohibit certain types of content.
Facebook is a profit-driven company, not a branch of the U.S. government. The algorithms used by Facebook do not allow people to see new content organically and chronologically as it is posted by those whom they follow. Instead, Facebook leads users to certain content and prevents them from seeing other content. None of this is done with the intention of promoting extremism. It just happens to be the best way to maximize profit. Haugen’s complaints and moralizing are made from a specific, TDS (Trump Derangement Syndrome) perspective, the same one which fueled three years of the nugatory Russiagate hunt to prove that Trump was elected only thanks to Vladimir Putin. That the platform has been used by human traffickers is merely a pretext by which to persuade people to believe that it needs to be controlled by a central government authority or Ministry of Truth. In fact, the same argument, mutatis mutandis, would apply to the use of vehicles to transport victims. Or to cellphone usage, given that criminals also communicate using those devices.
There are plenty of obvious responses to Haugen’s many complaints. Children’s use of the internet, as of the television, should be monitored by their parents, who are responsible for them until they achieve adulthood. Furthermore, seeing pictures and reading texts does not cause cancer and lung disease, and therefore is nothing like smoking cigarettes. Again, where was Frances Haugen (now thirty-seven years old) before the internet? Apparently not looking at magazines such as Vogue, which have promoted images of extremely thin women for more than a century. Each of her many complaints is similarly simple to diffuse, evincing a general conflation of cultural causes and effects.
Yet the story just keeps getting better and better. At the Lisbon Tech Fair on November 1, 2021, Haugen, the keynote speaker, went even so far as to call for the resignation of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. She claimed that leaving Zuckerberg in place would be a grave error because she believes that 10 million lives are at stake. (What?!) If such a projection does not sound sensationalist to you, then I’d venture to guess that you number among the people who believe that the protest on January 6, 2021, was the worst thing to happen to the United States since the Civil War. And, yes, Haugen has indeed included among her many grievances Facebook’s “dangerous” contribution to that nugatory “insurrection” attempt, just in case there were any lingering doubts as to her ideological sympathies.
Remarkably, Haugen is so confident in her self-righteousness (or is it just her security detail?) and so little afraid of Facebook, whose documents she stole, that she seems to believe that she should be able to select the company’s CEO. This preposterous conceit should sound familiar, for it is not at all unlike the U.S. government’s longstanding practice of decreeing who should govern foreign countries. The sort of CEO favored by Haugen & Co. would be the corporate analogue to Juan Guaidó, whom the U.S. government “recognized” as the true president of Venezuela in 2019, notwithstanding the democratic election of Nicolás Maduro by the people of Venezuela.
The farcical nature of Haugen’s obviously scripted, theatrical production is best illuminated by contrast to cases in the real world (not Haugen & Co.’s imagination) where millions of lives are in fact directly at stake—specifically, in the wars of choice continually waged by the United States. The true whistleblowers, who reveal the criminality of what the government is doing and has done, invariably wind up either dead, exiled or imprisoned under conditions even worse than those of terrorist suspects. Why should that be the case? Because the government wishes not only to prevent these entirely nonviolent dissidents from getting the word out but also to deter other possible future whistleblowers from following in their footsteps. Thanks to genuine whistleblower Edward Snowden, we know that the NSA sweeps up all of our cellphone data, regardless of whether or not we have been convicted of or are suspected of crimes. Snowden was stripped of his U.S. passport and now resides in Russia.
The persecution of Julian Assange is another case in point. The U.S. government is not pursuing anything approaching justice in this case, for Assange published top secret documents provided to him by whistleblower Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning, among others. Assange, being an Australian national, certainly has no obligation to support the U.S. government and cannot with legal or linguistic propriety be termed a traitor. The relentless pursuit of Assange is clearly intended to prevent him from having any further effect on the world. By founding Wikileaks and revealing what goes on behind the scenes of so-called just wars, Assange had the potential to effect a veritable antiwar revolution. Instead, he is wasting away in prison while his lawyers attempt to prevent his extradition to the United States to face charges of espionage. This despite well-documented criminal violations on the part of the plaintive, ranging from spying on Assange and his lawyers to plotting to kill him.
The reason why investigative journalists break stories based on stolen documents is because they have discovered news about which the populace is ignorant. Wikileaks published the Collateral Murder video stolen by Private Manning not to glorify Julian Assange but because it showed U.S. soldiers killing Reuters journalists from a helicopter. This was shocking in and of itself, but the accompanying audio recording revealed the attitudes of the killers toward their victims, including their desire to kill even wounded persons. This was surely news to most people of the United States, and around the world, and it needed to be reported because, in a free society, citizens must know what they are paying for when they file taxes each year. Otherwise, they are being coerced through deception.
Similarly, drone program whistleblowers have sought to alleviate their profound sense of guilt and shame by documenting the horrifying truth for all Americans to see, in the hope that, if only they knew that they were accomplices to murder, then at least some among them would withdraw their support from the serial military interventions in the Middle East. The Obama administration rebranded assassination as “targeted killing” and used that label as their cover for executing, on the basis of purely circumstantial evidence, thousands of persons suspected of collaboration with terrorist groups, in places where there were no U.S. citizens on the ground to protect. We were recently afforded the opportunity to glimpse the “rigor” with which targets were selected by those running the U.S. government’s drone program when Zemari Ahmadi, an aid worker, and his entire family were taken out by a Reaper drone in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 29, 2021.
Anyone who has been listening to the critics and whistleblowers who abandoned the drone program, such as Brandon Bryant, Cian Westmoreland, Stephen Lewis, Michael Haas, and Daniel Hale, already knew that such executions of suspects on the basis of scant evidence have been carried out for years. Of those who have spoken out, Daniel Hale deserves special mention, for he also stole and shared a trove of documents, published online as The Drone Papers, and later in book form as The Assassination Complex, which revealed to the public precisely what was graphically displayed in the strike carried out on August 29, 2021. Persons “outside areas of active hostility” are targeted based on cellphone SIM card data, the claims of bribed informants looking to procure wads of cash, and drone footage appearing to confirm the killers’ prior beliefs that the suspects are indeed terrorists. None of the victims were ever provided with the opportunity to demonstrate their innocence before being incinerated, and none have been permitted to surrender—most having had no idea that they were about to be erased from existence by a missile launched from a drone. In other words, this practice of “targeted killing” blatantly violates the Geneva Conventions prohibiting the summary execution of unarmed soldiers and the requirement of taking as prisoners any of those who agree to lay down their arms.
Where is Daniel Hale today? He certainly was not invited to speak before the U.S Congress or as a special guest before the British Parliament about the malfeasance of the U.S. and U.K. government in executing innocent human beings on the basis of shoddy evidence. Instead, Hale, a genuine whistleblower, who committed a crime in order to reveal the much worse crimes of his government, is now serving a nearly four-year sentence (forty-five months) in Federal prison for sharing with the public the truth about the drone program. Despite the gravity of Hale’s revelations, no one in the mainstream media discussed the outrageousness of killing suspects offered no opportunity to demonstrate their innocence, nor even to surrender, before being carbonized in places where no U.S. citizen’s life was at stake. Instead, Daniel Hale was hardly mentioned by anyone in the mainstream media at all. Upon his conviction, a line or two to the effect that another former soldier had been convicted under the Espionage Act could be found in a few media outlets. Oh well, another spy bites the dust!
Given the obvious role of the mainstream media in supporting the war party duopoly, having persuaded the populace to believe that “offensive military action is defensive,” and “suspects are terrorists,” and “We are good, and they are evil,” perhaps the Frances Haugen insurgency was bound to happen eventually. Here we are, in 2021, in a world where political operatives speak out not to reveal crimes committed by the government but to strengthen its power to suppress dissent through undermining the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, thereby permitting the commission of even more crimes by the state.
Make no mistake: Haugen’s repeated expression of concern for children is a rhetorical tactic to garner support for the federal government’s usurpation of the power of private companies to determine what may and may not be said and shown on their platforms. Just as the claim that infants were being ripped from incubators by Saddam Hussein’s henchmen in Kuwait was instrumental in galvanizing support for the ill-begotten First Gulf War on Iraq in 1991, Haugen makes a big show of caring about the children supposedly harmed by Facebook in order to persuade congress to establish a broad regulatory power not currently enjoyed by the government.
The potential for misuse of this open-ended of expansion of executive power is well illustrated by the 2002 AUMF (Authorization for Use of Military Force). Recall that in October 2002, the U.S. Congress ratified the AUMF on the grounds that President George W. Bush needed to protect the world from Iraq’s dictator, who was said to possess WMD (weapons of mass destruction) and the intention to share them with factional terrorists. In the subsequent two decades, the AUMF was wielded repeatedly as the alleged authorization for every president to kill anyone anywhere they wanted, even “outside areas of active hostility.”
For now, words still have meanings, and 2 + 2 = 4. But the very real danger to the citizens of a republic inherent to Haugen’s initiative cannot be exaggerated. The establishment of a full-fledged Ministry of Truth would stifle, if not altogether eliminate, dissent. For such a regulatory apparatus would possess the means to prevent its own dismantlement for generations to come, by silencing everyone who disagrees with the government, denouncing them as purveyors of disinformation or, worse, traitors.
Given the outrageousness of Haugen’s call for Zuckerberg’s resignation, one hopes that people will come to question her motives and think through the implications of her demands. Perhaps the most beneficial outcome of the Frances Haugen insurgency will be to permit us to determine, by their reactions to Haugen, who among the current crop of politicians are in fact closet totalitarians, their rhetoric about the importance of democracy notwithstanding.
When is a whistleblower not a whistleblower? When she’s a politically driven hack who promotes censorship in order to expand the power of the government by diminishing the power of citizens to express themselves.