Kelly Hofer, for the Haskayne School of Business
March 7, 2023
Advocacy in the face of adversity: Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen kicks off speaker series
Whether you love it, hate it or have a love/hate relationship with it, social media exists in some aspect of our daily lives. With each social media platform’s growing influence should come a growing responsibility to ensure the online communities they create are safe and the impact they have is positive. However, recent current events have shown that choosing people over profit isn’t always the course of action a company takes.
Enter Frances Haugen, a former data scientist and algorithmic product specialist at Facebook who could no longer sit back and watch the big-tech company continue to prioritize growth over public safety. In December 2020, she decided to blow the whistle and call out the company’s knowledge of the problematic roles it played in impacting youth and young adults’ mental health and amplifying misinformation on its platforms.
Haugen’s whistleblowing was an incredibly bold and courageous move — especially when considering she’d be battling against one of the world’s most powerful, profitable and popular tech companies.
Her brazen actions truly exemplify what it means to be an ethical leader — showing integrity and doing what’s right — which is why Haskayne is thrilled to welcome Haugen as the keynote speaker for its first event as part of the Next Up: W. David Duckett Speaker Series taking place on April 6.
Introducing Next Up: The W. David Duckett Speaker Series
Kicking off this spring, Next Up: The W. David Duckett Speaker Series is a biannual series that brings visionaries from diverse business backgrounds to Calgary for thought-provoking discussions. At each event, speakers will address critical and emerging issues in business that are relevant both locally and globally — aimed at sparking meaningful dialogue and community engagement.
Made possible by energy business leader, entrepreneur, philanthropist and alumnus David Duckett, the inaugural event will be held in Haskayne’s new event centre in Mathison Hall, allowing attendees the opportunity to hear Haugen’s compelling story, enjoy a delicious three-course meal and experience the school’s beautifully designed gathering space.
“Mathison Hall is going to completely transform the business education experience, and what better way to complement the space than by welcoming the unique voices of some of the world’s most renowned business leaders, entrepreneurs and academics to be heard here,” says Duckett.
“Bringing our diverse business community together to hear thought leaders share their incredible stories, experiences and insights and then to take those learnings to inform business decisions and solutions locally is what excited me most about supporting this project.
"I look forward to hearing the important dialogue that will emerge from these critical conversations and the positive impact it will have on our city.”
Beyond the speaker series, Duckett’s generosity extends further into Mathison Hall through his support of the W. David Duckett Theatre. The bright, modernly furnished space accommodates up to 80 students and includes technology features that enhance the learning experience.
Ethical leadership in the social media space
During Haugen’s 30-minute keynote speech, guests can expect her to discuss what propelled her to act as a whistleblower against Facebook, but more important, she will draw on her experience and expertise to shed light on how technology can be made healthier and how social media platforms can work for humanity — work she is set to embark on through her new not-for-profit, Beyond the Screen.
“It is my strong belief that we can have social media we enjoy that brings out the best in humanity,” says Haugen. “When it comes to social media, companies, leaders, educators and users all have a responsibility to uphold a duty of care.
"I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to share my story and vision for Beyond the Screen with the Calgary community this spring at the Haskayne School of Business.”
Following Haugen’s keynote will be a 30-minute Q-and-A fireside chat, where guests are encouraged to ask their most pressing questions and engage in meaningful dialogue.
About Frances Haugen, advocate for accountability and transparency in social media
Born in Iowa City, Iowa, Haugen is the daughter of two professors and grew up attending the Iowa caucuses with her parents, instilling a strong sense of pride in democracy and responsibility for civic participation.
Haugen holds a degree in electrical and computer engineering from Olin College and an MBA from Harvard. She is a specialist in algorithmic product management, having worked on ranking algorithms at Google, Pinterest, Yelp and Facebook. She was recruited to Facebook to be the lead product manager on the civic misinformation team, which dealt with issues related to democracy and misinformation, and later also worked on counter-espionage.
During her time at Facebook, Haugen became increasingly alarmed by the choices the company makes prioritizing their own profits over public safety and putting people's lives at risk. As a last resort and at great personal risk, Haugen made the courageous decision to blow the whistle on Facebook.
Haugen fundamentally believes the problems we are facing today with social media are solvable. We can have social media that brings out the best in humanity.