Canada, B.C. legislation would tackle ‘toxic’ online products: Facebook whistleblower

A woman who blew the whistle about Facebook ignoring potential harms to users of the social media platform says proposed laws by Canada and B.C. have promise to hold tech companies to account for profiting off harmful content.

Frances Haugen, a former Facebook product manager, says big tech companies such as Facebook’s parent company Meta need to be held accountable for the harms their products cause while profiting at handsome margins of up to 30 per cent.

Haugen, who testified before the U.S. Congress in 2021 about Facebook’s refusal to mitigate harmful content in favour of profit, says American government lawsuits were “transformative” in revealing information about societal impacts of harmful online content.

She says B.C. crafted the law using information brought to light in U.S. lawsuits, and she looks forward to seeing how the province will use it.

Haugen says B.C. “pioneered” legislation about non-consensual nude images, for example, and online harm bills being passed by the federal and provincial governments can be used to determine “the societal harms to kids” caused by addictive technology products.

Haugen, who was in Australia and made available to media by the B.C. government on Friday, says places around the world are dealing with harmful content affecting children, and it’s “accelerating so fast the public resources to cope with them are not keeping up.”

The B.C. government introduced proposed legislation this week that would allow lawsuits for health-related costs against companies, including social-media giants and energy drink manufacturers whose products could cause harm.

Premier David Eby says the Public Health Accountability and Cost Recovery Act is modelled on the province’s legislation allowing it to sue for recovery of health-related tobacco and opioid damage costs.

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