Facebook whistleblower’s Frances Haugen’s allegations about the company’s prioritization of profits over the safety of its users made headlines towards the end of 2021. A Wall Street Journal article reports that Facebook’s response to the scandal was to emphasize politics and deter more whistleblowers from coming forward.
The article cites “Republicans and Democrats familiar with the company’s outreach” who said that Facebook’s goal after the allegations surfaced “was to muddy the waters, divide lawmakers along partisan lines and forestall a cross-party alliance that was emerging to enact tougher rules on social-media companies in general and Facebook in particular.”
“To lawmakers and advocacy groups on the right, according to people familiar with the conversations, [Facebook’s] message was that Ms. Haugen was trying to help the Democrats,” the article states. “Later, Facebook lobbyists warned Democratic staffers that Republicans were focused on the company’s decision to ban expressions of support for Kyle Rittenhouse.” Ultimately, “[p]ushing politics to the forefront was one part of Facebook’s response…according to people familiar with the matter,” the article surmises.
The article also details how Facebook restricted “internal access settings for research discussions on topics, including mental health and radicalization” in an effort “to detect further leaks.” The restrictions limited access to these resources to only employees who are “directly involved in the work, according to employees and others familiar with the restrictions.”
Additionally, “[c]ompany researchers said they have been asked to submit work on sensitive topics for review by company lawyers, who have sometimes asked for examples of problems to be excised from internal posts.”
The article continues to report on Facebook’s advisory board, the shift in branding to Meta, and other tactics the company has purportedly employed to address the whistleblower allegations.
Tech whistleblowers dominated the headlines towards the end of 2021, with Facebook whistleblowers Haugen and Sophie Zhang bringing to light serious issues in the company’s conduct. Apple faced whistleblower allegations from Thomas le Bonniec regarding the company’s Siri technology and from Ashley Gjovik about workplace safety. Tesla whistleblower Steven Henkes filed a whistleblower disclosure with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in 2019 regarding faulty solar panel systems, but the agency decided to pursue investigating the allegations in late 2021.