Katie Harbath joined Facebook FB -0.20% more than a decade ago as the first Republican employee in the company’s Washington, D.C., office, pushing skeptical members of Congress on the virtues of the young social network for healthy elections.
Now she is pitching a different message. After rising to become Facebook’s public-policy director for global elections, Ms. Harbath left the company last year and teamed with a group now advising lawmakers in Washington and Europe on legislation advocating more guardrails around social media.
In her role at Facebook, now Meta Platforms Inc., Ms. Harbath had been the face of the company on many political issues and a liaison with governments and parties around the world. She says that when she resigned in March, she had come to believe that unless there is urgent intervention from governments and tech platforms, social media will likely incubate future political violence like that of the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021.
“I still believe social media has done more good than harm in politics, but it’s close,” she says. “Maybe it’s 52-48—and trending south.”
Ms. Harbath, 41 years old, is the highest-ranking former Facebook executive now working with the Integrity Institute, a startup nonprofit founded by former employees who had worked on identifying and mitigating potential societal harms caused by the company’s products. The institute is now advising lawmakers and think tanks around the world on these issues.
Ms. Harbath, now also a fellow at several Washington think tanks focused on election issues, joins a growing number of former Facebook executives who have gone public with their criticisms of the company. She says she no longer thinks her former company, including Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg, has the will to address its core problems in the way she believes is necessary.
“I’m disappointed in leadership, and I hate the fact that I’m disappointed in leadership,” she said of the company.