Facebook has grappled with whistleblowers, public relations storms and congressional investigations in recent years. But now he’s facing a combination of all three in what could be the most intense and widespread crisis in the company’s 17-year history.
On Friday, a consortium of 17 US news agencies began publishing a series of articles – collectively called “The Facebook Papers” – based on a mine of hundreds of internal company documents that were included in the disclosures made to 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 drafted versions received by Congress.
CNN’s coverage includes stories of how coordinated groups on Facebook are sowing discord and violence, including January 6, as well as Facebook’s challenges to moderate content in some non-English speaking countries, and how traffickers are humans have used its platforms to exploit people. 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.
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 surely 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.
All of this raises an uncomfortable question for the business: Is Facebook actually capable of handling the potential for real-world damage from its insanely large platforms, or has the social media giant grown too big not to fail?
The documents show various examples of issues that Facebook has been aware of, even though it is still grappling with them. Take the example of a report published by the Journal on September 16 that highlighted an internal Facebook search for a violent Mexican drug cartel, known as the Jalisco Nueva Generación Cartel. The cartel reportedly used the platform to post violent content and recruit new members using the acronym “CJNG”, even though it had been referred to internally as one of the “dangerous people and organizations” whose content should be deleted. Facebook told the Journal at the time that it was investing in artificial intelligence to strengthen its enforcement against such groups.
Despite the Journal’s report last month, CNN last week identified disturbing content related to the group on Instagram, including photos of guns and posts of photos and videos in which people appear to have been shot or beheaded. . After CNN asked Facebook about the posts, a spokesperson confirmed that several videos reported by CNN had been removed for violating company policies, and that at least one post had a warning added.
Facebook, for its part, has repeatedly tried to discredit Haugen and said his testimony and reporting on the documents misrepresented his actions and efforts.
“At the heart of these stories is a premise that is false,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement to CNN. “Yes, we are a business and we make a profit, but the idea that we do so at the expense of the safety or well-being of people misunderstands where our own business interests lie.”
In a tweet thread last week, the company’s vice president of communications, John Pinette, called the Facebook Papers a “curated selection of millions of documents on Facebook” that “can in no way be used to draw conclusions just as our own. topic”. But even that answer is revealing – if Facebook has more material that would tell a fuller story, why not post them?
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