Facebook whistleblower set to testify in congressional probe

The whistle-blower who gave the Wall Street Journal internal Facebook Inc. documents showing the company was aware of societal and mental-health risks from its platforms is willing to testify publicly before Congress, according to a Senate aide.

The Senate subcommittee on consumer protection plans to hear from the whistle-blower, who so far hasn’t been identified publicly, before the end of the year, according to an aide to Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee.

The subcommittee, led by Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Blackburn, has reviewed the Facebook documents and expects more revelations about the company, according to the aide.

The Wall Street Journal published a series of articles about Facebook’s internal research and deliberations about human traffickers using the platform, special treatment of content from politicians and celebrities, and the mental health impact of Instagram on teenage girls.

The reporting shows that some proposals to address the problems were either partially implemented or ignored.

Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice president of global affairs, said in a blog post that the stories “contained deliberate mischaracterizations of what we are trying to do, and conferred egregiously false motives to Facebook’s leadership and employees.”

Blumenthal and Blackburn are also planning a Sept. 30 hearing with witnesses invited from Facebook, TikTok, Snap Inc.’s Snapchat and Alphabet Inc.’s YouTube.

The subcommittee session was in the works before the Journal’s stories were published, but Blumenthal said the Facebook documents will be a central focus of the hearing.

Facebook executive Antigone Davis, the company’s global head of safety, will testify, according to a company spokesman. A YouTube spokesperson said the company won’t send a representative next week but is working with the committee to testify at another time.

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