After damning testimony in US Senate, Facebook pauses new products - report

It comes after a whistleblower testified its products knowingly "harmed children".
It comes after a whistleblower testified its products knowingly "harmed children". Photo credit: Getty Images

Facebook has slowed down the release of new products and functionality as the company faces intense scrutiny, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

Citing people familiar with the matter, the report says work on existing products has been put on hold during a "reputational review" amid the current turbulent time the social media giant is going through.

Last week it confirmed it was pausing work on Instagram Kids amid growing opposition from lawmakers and advocacy groups regarding child safety concerns.

Earlier this week, Facebook suffered a six-hour outage across all its platforms after routine maintenance on its network took them all offline.

That prevented 3.5 billion users around the world from using Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger, prompting 70 million people to reportedly sign up to alternative messaging software Telegram in just a single day.

It also comes after Frances Haugen testified to a US Senate Commerce Committee subcommittee, having identified herself as the whistleblower who provided internal Facebook documents to the WSJ.

She told the Senators the company's products "harm children, stoke division and weaken our democracy", with the company putting profit over any kind of moral responsibility.

Senator Ed Markey told Haugen she was a "twenty-first century American hero".

"Our nation owes you a huge debt of gratitude for the courage you're showing here today."

Haugen's testimony prompted White House press secretary Jen Psaki to say Facebook should face reform over privacy and trust concerns, with much more needing to be done.

After the testimony, Facebook's CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg shared a message he sent to all employees on his own page, defending the company.

"I'm sure many of you have found the recent coverage hard to read because it just doesn't reflect the company we know," he wrote.

"We care deeply about issues like safety, well-being and mental health. It's difficult to see coverage that misrepresents our work and our motives.

"At the heart of these accusations is this idea that we prioritise profit over safety and well-being. That's just not true."

The WSJ had previously reported how Facebook's 'cross check' programme, designed to ensure actions taken against high-profile users are fair, had instead ended up shielding millions of high-profile users from enforcement policies.

An internal review said it mean those users could violate the company's standards without any consequences, with revenge porn posted by high-profile footballer Neymar Jr as one example.