Monika Bickert is Facebook's global policy manager. She claims that safety and engagement are not priorities. Frances Haugen, a whistleblower who testified in the Senate that Facebook's systems are causing harm to vulnerable people and has not made any significant changes to stop it, said this contradicts Bickert's global policy management head Monika Bickert. Haugen claims that the platform was designed to exploit negative emotions in order to keep users on it.
Facebook has responded to Haugen's claims, but it hasn't pointed out any factual errors in Haugen’s testimony or in a series reports that highlighted massive weaknesses at the social media network, as identified internally by Facebook.
Bickert spoke with The Associated Press after Haugen's Senate testimony of Oct. 5. This interview was edited to ensure clarity and length.
Q: Is Facebook more concerned with safety than engagement?
A: Safety is not our priority. This company has been my home for over nine years. I am a mother. I was also a criminal prosecutor, and have been working on child safety for over 10 years. Safety is what I would have chosen to do if I wasn't here.
Q: While you have stated repeatedly that most teens enjoy Instagram, your research revealed that there are some teens who are being harmed. What are Facebook's plans to address these issues?
A: We do research because we know that teens can get support through Instagram. However, if there are a few teens who are experiencing a negative experience or a small group of teens having a bad experience, it's not enough. Therefore, we need to create features and products that support them. This is exactly what we have done over the years.
Q: Do you think your repeated references to stolen documents are a sign that you intend to sue the whistleblower?
A: That's a question I cannot answer. I can only say that it was an employee who did not work on these matters. I do however work on these topics and want to show the hard work that more than 40,000 Facebook employees put into safety and security every day.
Q: What was the truth in her testimony?
A: Many of these documents were mischaracterized, including our research on Instagram usage. We have published the research that suggested that Instagram was somehow toxic. This is not peer-reviewed research, just so you know. Facebook has a serious research program. In the past year, we participated in over 400 research articles. These documents are more like a survey. This is not peer-reviewed research. However, the stolen survey has been misrepresented to suggest that Instagram is a toxic place for teens.