'More soul searching': Facebook's former elections boss speaks out about the platform

Katie Harbath speaks on CNN's Reliable Sources on Sunday.

Katie Harbath speaks on CNN's Reliable Sources on Sunday. (CNN)

Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

WASHINGTON — Katie Harbath worked for 10 years at Facebook, where she was most recently the company's public policy director managing elections. Now, she's the founder and CEO of Anchor Change, and on "Reliable Sources" Sunday, she spoke out about her old company and its role in democracy.

Harbath said Facebook shouldn't get the sole blame for Jan. 6 — there's a massive problem across the media ecosystem in how people get their information.

"I do think there needs to be more soul searching around how (Facebook) could have done better as a company," Harbath said. "How could we have potentially prevented this, going as far back as December 2015 with President Trump."

Harbath was working at Facebook during the insurrection last year. CNN's chief media correspondent and the show's host Brian Stelter said critics pointed out she had a long time to leave amid the revelations about the company's harmful policies.

"I'm not here to say that I shouldn't be held responsible for the decisions and the actions I made inside the company," Harbath said. "But what I'm trying to do now is trying to actually rethink and try to go back and learn from those mistakes."

Harbath had hoped she could bring about changes within the company after 2016, and acknowledged the platform's increased transparency and civic integrity team. But in the past five years, she said the company got much larger, exacerbating some of the challenges.

"In terms of some of the decisions that the company was making, as it got larger, there were more leaks," Harbath said.

Harbath wants to see more long-term planning at Facebook in 2024. There will be major elections around the globe, including in the United States, India, Indonesia, Ukraine and Taiwan.

"That's a lot of elections to prepare for, and to build up the language capabilities, to build up the products, to build up the teams. That takes time," Harbath said.

Stelter said there's a sense that the rhetoric on Facebook and other social media platforms "supercharges the worst impulses of lies and disinformation" around the world.

"We need to start thinking about more nuanced views of this," Harbath said, "and also (get) a better understanding of what's happening inside these companies."

Ramishah Maruf Business


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