Frances Haugen, a former Facebook employee, testifies during the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security hearing titled Children’s Online Safety-Facebook Whistleblower, in Russell Building on Tuesday, October 5, 2021.
Tom Williams | CQ-Roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg should step down from the helm of the company, said Frances Haugen, the former Facebook employee who leaked tens of thousands of pages of internal documents from the social media firm after she left.
Haugen initially danced around the question from journalist Laurie Segall at the Web Summit conference on Monday. Haugen pointed to Zuckerberg’s majority of voting shares in the company, saying that shareholders should be able to choose their CEO.
But ultimately, she said: “I think Facebook would be stronger with someone who was willing to focus on safety. So yes.”
Zuckerberg has strong control over the company’s direction thanks to Facebook’s dual-class share structure, which gives him the majority of voting shares and makes it virtually impossible for the board or activist shareholders to force him out. He has never given any indication that he intends to step aside anytime soon. The company’s stock is up almost 21% this year.
It’s the farthest Haugen has gone in calling for Zuckerberg to step down from leading the company he founded in his college dorm room nearly a two decades ago. Haugen has repeatedly said that she made the decision to leak the documents because she cares about and believes in Facebook and its capacity to change.
But, she said, “I think it is unlikely the company will change if he remains the CEO. And I hope that he can see that there is so much good that he could do in the world and maybe it’s a chance for someone else to maybe take the reins.”
Haugen said she still believes Zuckerberg himself can grow as well.
“It doesn’t make him a bad person to have made mistakes,” she said. “But it is unacceptable to continue to make the same bad mistakes after you know that those are mistakes. And so I have faith that he can change.”
Haugen also addressed Facebook’s recent company rebrand to Meta.
“Over and over again Facebook chooses expansion in new areas over sticking the landing on what they’ve already done,” Haugen said. “And I find it unconscionable that, as you read through the documents, it states very clearly there needs to be more resources on very basic safety systems. And instead of investing on making sure that our platforms are a minimal level of safe, they’re about to invest ten thousand engineers in video games and I can’t imagine how this makes sense.”
“This is a ludicrous comparison and a false choice,” a spokesperson for Meta said in a statement. “It is not as though a company can only build new technology or invest in keeping people safe. Obviously, we can and must do both of these things at the same time – and we are.”