The Facebook Papers may be the biggest crisis in the company's history - Social Media Explorer
The Facebook Papers may be the biggest crisis in the company’s history
The Facebook Papers may be the biggest crisis in the company’s 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 were 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. CNN was part of the consortium that reviewed the redacted versions sent to Congress.
CNN’s coverage also includes stories about coordinated groups (*)Facebook( FB(*()Sow discord and violence, including January 6. CNN and other outlets are reporting on the company’s activities after a month of intense scrutiny. The Wall Street Journal published a series stories that were based on tens to thousands of pages of internal Facebook documents, which Haugen had leaked. (The work of the consortium is based on many of these documents. Facebook’s troubles aren’t over yet. Members of the subcommittee called for Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO to testify. On Friday, another ex-Facebook employee filed anonymously a complaint against the company with similar allegations to Haugen’s.

Facebook has been in trouble before for its handling of data privacy, content moderation, and rivals. However, the vast collection of documents and the many stories still to come from it highlight concerns and problems in almost every part of Facebook’s business. These include its approach to hate speech and misinformation combating, managing international growth, protecting younger users and its ability accurately to measure its large audience.

This raises a troubling question for Facebook: Does the company have the capacity to manage the potential for real-world harms caused by its enormous platforms? Or has it become too big?

To fail? Facebook tries turning the page Facebook, on its part, repeatedly tried to discredit Haugen. It claimed her testimony, and reports on the documents, mischaracterize its actions.

“At heart of these stories are a false premise,” a Facebook spokesperson stated to CNN. “Yes, it’s a business. We make profit. But the idea that we do this at people’s expense or well-being is false. This is where our commercial interests lie.”

In a

John Pinette (the company’s Vice President for Communications) called the Facebook Papers a “curated collection out of millions” that “can not be used to draw any fair conclusions about us.” But even that response is telling –— if Facebook has more documents that would tell a fuller story, why not release them? (During her Senate testimony Facebook’s Davis stated that Facebook was “looking for ways to publish more research.”

Facebook plans to rebrand under a new name starting this week, according to reports. This is in response the ongoing criticism. (Facebook previously declined comment on this report. The move appears to be a clear attempt to turn the page, but a fresh coat of paint won’t fix the underlying issues outlined in the documents — only Facebook, or whatever it may soon be called, can do that. tweet threadTake the example of a report published by the Journal on September 16 that highlighted internal Facebook research about a violent Mexican drug cartel, known as Cartél Jalisco Nueva Generación. The cartel was reported to have been using the platform to post violence and recruit new members, using the acronym “CJNG,” even though the organization had been identified internally as one of the “Dangerous Individuals and Organizations” whose contents should be removed. Facebook stated to the Journal that it was investing in artificial Intelligence to strengthen its enforcement against such groups.
A trove of internal Facebook documents leaked by whistleblower Frances Haugen has kicked off a wave of coverage of the company, starting with the Wall Street Journal's "Facebook Files" and now as a consortium of other news organizations roll out stories on the same documents.
CNN identified disturbing content on Instagram linked to the group last week, despite the Journal’s report last months. CNN found photos and videos of guns and posts in which people seem to have been shot or beheaded, despite the Journal’s report last mois. CNN asked Facebook about these posts. A spokesperson for Facebook confirmed the removal of multiple videos CNN had flagged for violating company policies. At least one post also had a warning added.
Haugen suggested that Facebook’s inability to solve such problems could be due to its focus on profit over societal benefit, and in some cases because it lacks the ability to extinguish all of its fires at once.

“Facebook has very little staff… this is because there is a lot of technologists who look at what Facebook did and their unwillingness accept responsibility. People just aren’t ready to work there,” Haugen stated in a briefing with “Facebook Papers”. “So they have make very deliberate decisions about what will or won’t get done.”

Facebook knew it was being used to incite violence in Ethiopia. It did little to stop the spread, documents show
According to a Facebook spokesperson, $13 billion has been invested by the company since 2016 in order to improve safety on its platforms. (By comparison: Facebook’s revenue last year was $85billion and its profit was $29billion. Facebook spokesperson said that “40,000 people are working on safety and cybersecurity on our platform,” with 15,000 of them reviewing content in more 70 languages. These people work in more 20 locations to support our community.

“We have also taken out over 150 networks that seek to manipulate public discourse since 2017, and they originate in more than 50 countries, with most of them coming from or focusing outside the US,” the spokesperson stated. “Our track record shows us that we take the same level of action against abuses outside the US as we do in the US.

However, the documents indicate that there is still much to be done to remove all the harms detailed in the documents as well as to address the unintended consequences caused by Facebook’s unprecedented reach and integration of our daily lives.

An uncertain future

In the meantime, the company appears to be quickly losing trust — not only among some of its users and regulators, but internally, as well.

Many internal documents indicate concerns among Facebook employees over the company’s actions. This includes a December 2020 Facebook post about attrition in the company’s integrity team. An employee commented in a comment that “Our recent Pulse results have shown confidence in leadership has decreased across the company.” (Companies often use the Pulse survey to gauge employee sentiment on a particular topic.

The internal post was written after Facebook’s Civic Integrity staff was disbanded in the wake of the Presidential election. Other roles were assigned within the company. This was a move that Haugen criticised, but that Guy Rosen, Facebook Vice President for Integrity, approved.

“So that the incredible work pioneered”

For elections could be applied further… their work continues until this day.” has saidFacebook’s independent oversight board alleged that the company was not “fully forthcoming” with details about its Cross-Check program, which reportedly shielded millions from the platform’s normal content moderators rules. (A Facebook spokesperson stated that the company had “asked for input from the board into our Cross-Check program, and we will work to be clearer in our explanations going forward.” [by the team]Facebook is happy to announce that Haugen and the team supporting Haugen aren’t looking to shut down the company or dissolve it. Haugen repeatedly said to senators that she was there to support Facebook’s potential for good if it is able address its serious problems. Haugen even stated she would return to Facebook if given another chance. She suggested that Congress allow the company to “declare moral bankruptcy” and that they all work together to fix the problems.
“The most fascinating thing I found as I read these files is how extraordinary the company,” Lawrence Lessig (a Harvard Law School professor and strategic lawyer adviser to Haugen), told CNN. “The company is full of thousands of Frances Haugens… who are just trying do their jobs.” They are trying make Facebook as safe, useful, and as easy to use as possible.
Facebook has known it has a human trafficking problem for years. It still hasn't fully fixed it

It remains to see how much Facebook will react to the revelations by future whistleblowers. Particularly if its advertising-fueled company continues to operate unaffected. Will it cooperate with regulators, Haugen, and others to achieve the transparency and cooperation they demand? Or will it just continue doing business as usual under a different name?

This article is part in a CNN series that was published on “The Facebook Papers”. It contains over ten thousand pages (leaked) of internal Facebook documents that offer deep insight into the company’s culture, its approach towards misinformation, hate speech moderation, and communication related to Jan. 6.

The entire series is available here


About the Author

Adam is an owner at Nanohydr8. He really loves comedy and satire, and the written word in general.

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