The Facebook Papers: Here are all the news stories you should be reading
The so called ‘Facebook Papers’ have been reviewed by several outlets and everything is pretty much terrible.
A few weeks ago, The Wall Street Journal began publishing a collection of scathing reports that showed just how bad Facebook is for society. In the weeks since the whistleblower responsible for leaking all of the internal documents acquired by The Journal has come forward, even more sketchy practices from the social media giant have been revealed.
Frances Haugen, a former employee at the company, leaked over 10,000 pages of internal Facebook documents to the media and the SEC. In an interview with 60 Minutes, Haugen revealed many details about Facebook that show the company in a very bad light.
Haugen revealed all kinds of details about how the company conducts business, from claims that say the platform intentionally favors controversial content as a way to keep users on the platform to European political parties being forced to change their political strategies as a response to the platform’s algorithms.
Haugen has since testified before Congress over her findings, and she is set to testify before Parliament in the U.K. this week. Over the weekend, more than a dozen news sources got their hands on the internal documents that Haugen released. While much of what was found has been previously reported by The Wall Street Journal or revealed by Haugen herself, many outlets found new information among the thousands of pages.
Here’s what people are saying about the newly released ‘Facebook Papers’
First of all, the papers seem to confirm what a lot of us already knew: politics is at the center of a lot of Facebook’s decision-making. The Wall Street Journal reported that a thread on the company’s internal message board showed concern over “hyperpartisan sources,” showing up in Facebook’s News Tab.
Employees at the company also show concern over the power that political lobbyists have over the company’s decision-making. “Facebook routinely makes exceptions for powerful actors when enforcing content policy,” reads an internal document from one of the company’s data scientists, as reported by Politico.
And then, of course, there’s the platform’s role in the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol Building. Documents reviewed by The Atlantic show that many Facebook employees were upset with how the company’s leadership failed to take action during this time.
“One of the darkest days in the history of democracy and self-governance…History will not judge us kindly,” wrote one employee.
The platform is even more dangerous in developing countries
Just in case Facebook’s operations aren’t bad enough in developed countries, these leaks show that its policies are even worse in developing countries. The New York Times called Facebook in India “an inundation of hate speech, misinformation and celebrations of violence,” after studying one internal report.
Additionally, the platform has been a key tool used to incite violence in Ethiopia. CNN reported on how the platform has been used in the country to incite violence and help perpetuate the company’s ongoing civil war.
In case lack of moderation doesn’t sound like a bad enough idea in developing countries, how about bending to the demands of developing nations’ governments?
Documents studied by The Washington Post show that the company’s leader, Mark Zuckerberg, repeatedly complied with demands from the Vietnam Communist Party to censor anti-government posts. So much for free speech.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. New stories are dropping left and right. Here are some of the stories you should be reading
A trove of internal documents turned over to the SEC provides new details of the social media platform’s role in fomenting the storming of the U.S. Capitol. – Washington Post
Internal documents suggest Facebook has long known its algorithms and recommendation systems push some users to extremes. – NBC News
Company documents show that the social network’s employees repeatedly raised red flags about the spread of misinformation and conspiracies before and after the contested November vote. – NYT
Employees and the company’s own research highlight ways Facebook failed to police its platforms ahead of the siege on the Capitol. – Bloomberg
Company researchers identified calls to violence that coincided with the 2020 riots in Delhi that left 53 dead. – WSJ
Likes and shares made the social media site what it is. Now, company documents show, it’s struggling to deal with their effects. – NYT
Documents collected by whistleblower Frances Haugen could give the company “a lot to regret” in its fights to prove it’s not a monopoly. – Politico
Facebook employees have warned for years that as the company raced to become a global service it was failing to police abusive content in countries where such speech was likely to cause the most harm. – Reuters
The company’s own analysts asked if the social-networking giant was doing enough to ‘limit the harm’. – Bloomberg
Rising internal concerns about young users was largely invisible to outsiders, forming the basis of a whistle-blower’s SEC complaint. – Bloomberg
People operating multiple Facebook accounts spread a large portion of the site’s incendiary political content, and Facebook has done little to crack down on them. – Politico
Facebook’s senior executives interfered to allow US politicians and celebrities to post whatever they wanted on its social network despite pleas from employees to stop, leaked internal documents suggest. – The Financial Times
Facebook employees repeatedly sounded the alarm on the company’s failure to curb the spread of posts inciting violence in “at risk” countries like Ethiopia, where a civil war has raged for the past year. – CNN
The world’s largest social network is internally grappling with an existential crisis: an aging user base. – The Verge
Two years ago, Apple threatened to pull Facebook and Instagram from its app store over concerns about the platform being used as a tool to trade and sell maids in the Mideast. – Associated Press
This is just the tip of the iceberg. We expect to see more stories published throughout the day and rest of the week. Protocol has a helpful rundown of some of the best stories being published, but we’ll be adding more to this list as they are published.
Could this be the beginning of the end for Facebook?
At this point, it’s difficult to think of a world where Facebook could fail. The platform has nearly 3 billion monthly users, and almost everyone in the world at least knows its name. But the ‘Facebook Papers’ are a kind of controversy that the company has never seen before.
Despite having seen its fair share of controversies over the years, CNN is calling the Facebook Papers “the biggest crisis in the company’s history.” Combine that with the discovery by Bloomberg that shows that teens are becoming less and less interested in the platform, and things are definitely not looking great for Facebook.
But Facebook is an insanely powerful entity. Whether or not the social media platform maintains the dominance that it currently has, the company behind the platform will almost certainly continue to thrive. The company has probably picked a good time to finally rebrand itself and get away from the Facebook name.
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