Frances Hogan on 60 Minutes: Why Facebook whistleblower leaks are different from other PR crises

On Sunday evening, a former Facebook employee previously disclosed internal documents incriminating the company advance day 60 minutes to reveal her identity.

Frances Hogan, a former product manager on Facebook’s Civil Integrity team, shared documents that were the basis for the bombing Series of articles in the Wall Street Journal. Reports revealed that the company knew its products could cause meaningful harm – including negatively impacting teens’ mental health – but had yet to make major changes to fix such issues.

“There was a conflict of interest between what was good for the public and what was good for Facebook. 60 minutes Sunday interview.

The employee also shared new allegations — not previously covered in extensive Wall Street Journal reporting — about allegations that Facebook relaxed its standards on misinformation after the 2020 presidential election, shortly before the 2020 presidential election. January 6 riots in the US Capitol.

In an internal memo to employees obtained and Posted on Friday By The New York Times, Facebook’s Vice President of Public Policy and Global Affairs Nick Clegg wrote that the responsibility for January 6 “falls squarely with the perpetrators of the violence, those in politics and elsewhere and those who actively encouraged them.” Clegg also wrote that Facebook is not a “primary cause of polarization.”

Even for Facebook, which has been mired in public relations and political crises over the past five years – this is an amazing moment for the company and the billions of people who use its products. Already, in response to whistleblower documents, the company halted development of its children’s Instagram product, referred two executives to Congress to testify, and launched a PR attack dismissing the magazine’s reports as “cherry picking.”

The whistleblower also shared internal Facebook documents with lawmakers, and he is expected to testify before members of Congress on Tuesday. The fact that whistleblowers coordinate with senators reflects how US lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are viewing social media companies like Facebook with more concern — and they are becoming more adept at scrutinizing them.

said Katie Harbath, a former director of public policy at Facebook who is now a fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center and the Atlantic Council.

While many Facebook employees have spoken out against the company anonymously or internally, only a few — particularly at a high level — have spoken out against Facebook. They have not previously disclosed detailed evidence that the company appears to understand but ignore the systemic harm it is causing.

The Facebook defector also didn’t have that kind of press release: first, a series of investigative reporting with a major publication, then he unveiled prime-time television, and soon testified before Congress — all in just a few weeks.

The extent to which Facebook apparently knows about the harmful effects of its products and withholds that knowledge from the public has caused lawmakers like Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) to compare the company’s tactics with those of Big Tobacco.

Facebook has already responded to allegations by defending the playbook, similar to its response to President Joe Biden’s criticism that the platform He was ‘killing people’ because misinformation about Covid-19 was spreading on the platform. The company and its leaders argue that the allegations are sensational and untrue, that this information is taken out of context, and that Facebook is not solely responsible for the world’s problems.

And just as during the recent controversy over misinformation about Biden and Facebook for Covid-19, Facebook has questioned the credibility of outside research on how its platforms work.

This time around, the company went so far as to discredit some of its internal researchers’ findings about the negative effects of Instagram on teens’ mental health. Last week, I distributed a file Annotated version From the original research first published in the journal. In the annotated slides, Facebook said the researchers’ slide titles “might be exciting” for findings about how Instagram contributes negatively to body image issues for teenage girls. The company also said the study size was limited.

The fact that the company disputes the initial findings of its employee research shows how damaging the reports from whistleblower documents can be, and how quickly the company is moving to change the narrative.

“It’s a big moment,” said Yael Eisenstadt, former global head of election integrity operations at Facebook. She has been an outspoken critic of the company since leaving in November 2018. “For years, we’ve known about many of these issues – via journalists and researchers – but Facebook has been able to claim they have an ax to grind and so we shouldn’t trust what they say. This time, the documents speak for themselves, Rickod said.

One of the main reasons this latest scandal appears to be more significant is that politicians on both sides of the aisle feel cheated by Facebook because they have done so previously. CEO Mark Zuckerberg asked about the mental health effects on Instagram on kids and teens, and the company wasn’t forthcoming at the time.

In March, Zuckerberg said he did not believe the research was “conclusive,” and that “in general, the research we’ve seen is that using social apps to connect with others can have positive mental health benefits.” But he did not disclose the negative results in the research mentioned in the Wall Street Journal reports, including that 13% of British teenagers and 6% of American teenagers She studied who had suicidal thoughts and tracked the suicidal urge to Instagram.

The company also did not share the research in response to two separate inquiries from Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-MA) and Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) when they requested an internal Facebook search on the matter after March. Congressional hearing.

And more current and former Facebook employees — instead of being silenced by the company I mentioned tightening communication Among its employees – they started frankly more company discussion Issues on Twitter and within internal company settings such as company message boards, According to a report from The New York Times.

Some researchers working for the company feel “embarrassed” that Facebook has rejected the quality of its employees’ work, according to to the Thames. Facebook, like other big tech companies, takes pride in hiring world-class researchers and engineering talent. If it tarnishes its image in the engineering and academic communities, it may limit the caliber of personnel it can hire.

“I think Facebook is miscalculating what a watershed moment is, not only because the public is now watching these documents, but because employees are starting to get angry,” Eisenstadt told Recode.

In the coming days, attention around the whistleblower will likely shift to her personal story: her background, what she worked on at Facebook, whether she had any incentive to share this information other than in the public interest, and how she could legally face challenges or even retaliation for her actions ( Facebook administrators testified under oath that they would not.)

But the amount that advances is more than one person. By revealing thousands of documents involving the work of many people at the company — which have been largely ignored by top executives — this whistleblower has reignited long debates inside and outside the company about Facebook’s flaws.

“[The whistleblower] It provided an unprecedented and unprecedented insight into the extent to which Facebook executives have deliberately ignored the life-and-death consequences of their products and decisions,” Jesse Lehrich, co-founder of the nonprofit Accountable Tech, told Recode. “And it paved the way for others to speak out.”

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