Facebook whistleblower releases documents to multiple news outlets showing company knows the harm it causes

Key Points
  • Multiple news outlets on Friday published stories based on documents provided by Frances Haugen, a former Facebook employee and whistleblower.
  • The reports cite internal Facebook research and documents that show the company is aware of many of the harms its apps and services cause.

In this article

New Facebook whistleblower testifies in U.K.
New Facebook whistleblower testifies in U.K.

Facebook on Friday was hit with multiple reports stemming from documents provided to news outlets by Frances Haugen, a former employee turned whistleblower.

The reports cite internal company research and documents that show the company is aware of many of the harms its apps and services cause but either doesn't rectify the issues or struggles to address them.

According to a report from NBC, Facebook ran an experiment that showed how a new profile for a conservative mother from North Carolina began, within two days, to receive recommendations to join groups related to the far-right conspiracy group QAnon.

By the summer of 2020, , the documents show, Facebook was hosting thousands of private QAnon groups and pages with millions of followers, NBC reported. Facebook has since banned QAnon groups.

Bloomberg reported on documents that showed employees at Facebook expressed shock and outrage after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

"I'm struggling to match my value to my employment here," one employee wrote, according to the Bloomberg story. "I came here hoping to affect change and improve society, but all I've seen is atrophy and abdication of responsibility."

With an image of himself on a screen in the background, Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before the House Financial Services Committee in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill October 23, 2019 in Washington, DC.
Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images

Internal Facebook analysis of the Jan. 6 insurrection found that the policies and procedures put in place by the company were not enough to prevent the growth of groups related to "Stop the Steal," according to a CNN report. The company treated each piece of "Stop the Steal" content individually, rather than as part of a greater whole, the report notes.

The New York Times reported on Friday, based on documents from Haugen, that a Facebook data scientist wrote to his colleagues to say that 10% of all U.S. views of political content on the site were of posts alleging that the 2020 U.S. presidential was fraudulent.

On Saturday, citing additional documents, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal published articles detailing the spread of hate speech and content inciting violence in India on Facebook applications. The Wall Street Journal pointed to a report saying Bajrang Dal, a Hindu group tied to Indian Prime Minster Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party, had used WhatsApp to incite violence. The report recommended a "takedown," but the Hindu group continues to operate on Facebook, the newspaper said.

The reports follow a series of stories from the Wall Street Journal titled "The Facebook Files," from documents provided by Haugen. Most notably, the series found internal documents that showed Facebook was aware of the harm caused by its Instagram service to teenagers' mental health.

Frances Haugen, Facebook whistle-blower, speaks during a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021.
Stefani Reynolds | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Earlier this month, Haugen testified before a Senate panel about the reports. Facebook attempted to discredit Haugen at the time and continues to push back against the stories stemming from the documents she's released.

"At the heart of these stories is a premise which is false," Facebook wrote in a statement to CNBC. "Yes, we're a business and we make profit, but the idea that we do so at the expense of people's safety or wellbeing misunderstands where our own commercial interests lie. The truth is we've invested $13 billion and have over 40,000 people to do one job: keep people safe on Facebook."

-- CNBC's Jordan Novet contributed to this report.

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