The “repentant of Facebook”, Frances Haugen, in reinforcement of Elon Musk

On the phone from London, Frances Haugen found her voice. Two days earlier, in Brussels, it was voiceless that she appeared before the Committee on the Internal Market of the European Parliament. Faced with the few MEPs present, the repentant Facebook executive used her thin voice to hammer home that she was continuing her battle for freedom of expression. On November 8 last in this same forum, it is true, the elected officials had come in greater numbers and had listened to him more than attentively.

His revelations on the hidden face of the social network, hammered out in London, Washington, Paris, Berlin, directly fueled the Digital Services Act (DSA), on which the various EU institutions agreed on April 23. The future European law, pushed by Thierry Breton, European Commissioner for the Internal Market, and Margrethe Vestager, his counterpart in charge of competition, aims to regulate digital platforms in Europe, particularly in terms of content moderation. It should come into force in 2023. “I would like to congratulate you,” the 38-year-old young woman told MEPs. The Digital Services Act is a historic agreement that will make social networks less toxic for users. We now have a modern alternative to regulate content. »

Concordance of times, two days after the compromise found in Europe on the DSA, Elon Musk announced his takeover of Twitter, for the sum of 44 billion dollars. Before suspending the operation, while waiting to be able to clearly verify the number of robots hiding behind certain users. With this in mind, the founder of Tesla and SpaceX requested an audit on the number of fake accounts.

Disinformation. Frances Haugen has only crossed paths with the richest man on the planet once, last year. However, his fight and the posture of the businessman come together. “I have no idea of ​​Elon Musk’s intentions,” the engineer told Opinion. But I think he’s right to ask about ‘bots’, software that pretends to be users. “I’m glad he wants to remove them from Twitter because bots are the source of misinformation on this platform. The company needs to discuss how they influence the market price of digital businesses. It’s because of this that companies aren’t encouraged to remove fake users, even dangerous ones.”

“We need real standards to define what a person is on the Internet, because it has a direct impact on public safety. If Musk asks for help, I’ll be happy to help.”

The whistleblower details: “When ordinary companies tell you ‘We have a euro’, very strict rules oblige them to prove the nature of this euro. So they don’t lie or artificially inflate their value. If a tech company loses 1% of its users, its valuation can drop by 10%. They are financially incentivized to do wrong. We need real standards to define what a person is, because this has a direct impact on public safety. If Musk asks for help, I’ll be happy to help. »

Elon Musk also wants to allow users to change algorithms as they wish, and make Twitter’s code transparent and open, thus deviating from the traditional economic model based on advertising. He also plans to take Twitter out of the stock market. For Fabrice Epelboin, professor and specialist in the geopolitics of cyberspace, Frances Haugen was decisive in making herself heard, where sociologists like him were not. “For Musk, Haugen is a moral guarantee who has shown his probity”, perceives the researcher who also denounces Twitter’s whimsical methodology for detecting fake accounts.

For the Harvard graduate, cleaning up the rules of the game when it comes to counting flesh-and-blood users now means launching her own non-governmental organization. In fact, over the past seven months, she has never ceased to be called upon by leaders around the world to testify and deliver her expertise: Great Britain, the United States, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Australia and Norway. Advice to the States for which she does not ask for compensation.

“Agency”. At the same time, the conferences – paid this time – have multiplied, even if the Puerto Rican resident says she does not have a lot of expenses. In recent weeks, we have seen it with students at the prestigious Cambridge University in Great Britain, or even at Olin College, in Massachusetts. During these interventions, she notably exposes her fears about the consequences of the metaverse for the most isolated people.

She is also writing a book, which is scheduled for release in March 2023. It will focus on the notion of “agency” (agency, in English), the faculty that a being has to act in the face of adversity. “My personal mission is to remind people that they always have agency, regardless of the circumstances. We make our choices and we can decide to act, even if that action is limited. I take my own example: in 2014, I found myself paralyzed from the legs to the knees. Walking had become an ordeal. I then discovered that I still had some leeway. I could still make choices. I could decide to control what I could and move on. Admit that we are not powerless, grow to become the best version of ourselves… Even when you are in prison, locked in a cell, deprived of freedom, even then you still have decisive choices to make, even if they are small. »

In the meantime, the one who is also the boss of Tesla and Starlink is at the time of very big decisions. On Friday, on his Twitter account with more than 94 million subscribers, Elon Musk wanted to reassure those who fear that he will be passionate about the social network to the detriment of his other businesses. “To be clear, I’m spending less than 5% of my time on the Twitter acquisition,” he wrote. It’s not rocket science!”

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