4 Steps to Fix Facebook, Courtesy of Frances Haugen: Parmy Olson

At a congressional hearing on Tuesday, former Facebook Inc. product manager Frances Haugen didn’t need to convince lawmakers that the company has a big problem. Republicans and Democrats were, for once, united on her side, at several points even calling her a “hero.” What they needed was direction. Luckily, Haugen gave that to them.

Throughout the hearing she used the term “engagement-based ranking” to synthesize the complexities of Facebook’s problems into a single, neutral term. The lawmakers tried saying it themselves. “We’ve learned … that Facebook conducts what’s called ‘engagement-based ranking’?” Senator John Thune asked tentatively.

He was correct. Facebook’s success as a business boils down to algorithms that bump the most titillating content to the top of users’ newsfeeds. These formulas are fundamental to Facebook’s success in engaging users but also contribute to the propagation of conspiracy theories on the site and to drawing teenage girls to eating disorders on Instagram. In one powerful moment, Haugen pointed out that, years from now, women would effectively suffer from brittle bones and infertility because of Facebook’s choices.

As a witness, she exuded credibility, refusing to be drawn into personal attacks on Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg or thorny issues around free speech, admitting when she didn’t have an answer and using clear language.

All the more devastating for Facebook was how the cool-headed testimony started to sound like an intervention. Facebook had been hiding its problems, Haugen said, “and like people often do when they can hide their problems, they get in over their heads.” Congress needed to step in and say, “We can figure out how to fix these things together.”

Previous Facebook scandals have pulled lawmakers in different directions — squabbling with Zuckerberg, for example, over who’s truly being censored — and ultimately resulted in inaction. But their united support and understanding now marks a turning point.

So, here are four things Congress could do based on Haugen’s guidance: