The Facebook is still in the news; Facebook has confronted whistleblowers, PR firestorms, and Congressional inquiries. But now, it faces a combination of all three at once in what could be the most intense and wide-ranging crisis in the company’s 17-year history.
On Friday, a consortium of 17 US news organizations began publishing a series of stories — collectively called “The Facebook Papers” — based on a trove of hundreds of internal company documents, which they included in disclosures made to the Securities and Exchange Commission and provided to Congress in redacted form by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen’s legal counsel. The consortium, which includes CNN, reviewed the redacted versions received by Congress.
“The Facebook Papers” — cited a stove of leaked documents, which Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen’s legal provided to regulators at the US Securities and Exchange Commission.
The Facebook is still in the news
On Friday, a consortium of 17 US news agencies began publishing a series of articles – collectively called “The Facebook Papers” – based on hundreds of internal company documents included in the disclosures made. The Securities and Exchange Commission and provided to Congress in drafted form by legal counsel to Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen. The consortium, which includes CNN, reviewed the framed versions received by Congress. CNN’s coverage contains stories of how the groups coordinated on Facebook (FB), sowing discord and violence, including January 6, and facebook’s challenges to moderate content in some non-English speaking countries, and how human traffickers have used its platforms to exploit people.
Reports from CNN and other media outlets in the consortium follow a month of scrutiny of the company. The Wall Street Journal previously published a series of articles based on tens of thousands of pages of internal Facebook documents leaked by Haugen. (The work of the consortium is based on many of the same documents.)There is currently no end in sight for Facebook’s problems. Members of the subcommittee called Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to testify.
And on Friday, another former Facebook employee anonymously filed a complaint against the company with the SEC, with allegations similar toHaugen’ss.Facebook has already faced scandals over its approach to data privacy, content moderation, and its competitors. But the vast treasure trove of documents, and the many stories that indeed flow from it, touch on concerns and issues in seemingly every aspect of its business: its approach to tackling hate speech and disinformation, managing international growth. , protect young users on its platform. And even its ability to accurately measure the size of its massive audience.
“Facebook is extremely thinly staffed … and this is because there are a lot of technologists that look at what Facebook has done and their unwillingness to accept responsibility, and people just aren’t willing to work there,” Haugen said in a briefing with the “Facebook Papers” consortium last week. “So they have to make very, very, very intentional choices on what does or doesn’t get accomplished.”
According to the company spokesperson, Facebook has invested a total of $13 billion since 2016 to improve the safety of its platforms. (By comparison, its annual revenue topped $85 billion last year, and its profit hit $29 billion.) The spokesperson also said Facebook has “40,000 people working on the safety and security on our platform, including 15,000 people who review content in more than 70 languages working in more than 20 locations all across the world to support our community.”
“We have also taken down over 150 networks seeking to manipulate public debate since 2017, and they have originated in over 50 countries, with the majority coming from or focused outside of the US,” the spokesperson said. “Our track record shows that we crackdown on abuse outside the US with the same intensity that we apply in the US.”
The Bottom Line
In the meantime, the company appears to be quickly losing trust — not only among some of its users and regulators but also internally.
Several of the internal documents point to concerns among Facebook employees about the company’s actions, including one December 2020 post on Facebook’s internal site about attrition on the company’s integrity team in which an employee notes in a comment, “Our recent Pulse results show confidence in leadership has declined across the company.” (Companies often use pulse surveys to gauge employee sentiment on specific topics.)
The internal post came after which broke up Facebook’s Civic Integrity team following the Presidential election and its staff assigned to other roles within the company, a move that Haugen criticized but that Facebook Vice President of Integrity Guy Rosen has said was done “so that the incredible work pioneered [by the team] for elections could be applied even further … their work continues to this day.”