Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen’s allegations against the tech giant have led to heightened pressure for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to investigate the company. Following Haugen’s disclosure, another former Facebook employee has filed an anonymous SEC whistleblower disclosure claiming that Facebook has allowed illegal activity to persist on their platform.
The whistleblower disclosure, which was obtained and reported on by The Washington Post, was filed on October 22 with the assistance of Gretchen Peters and her group the Alliance to Counter Crime Online (ACCO). Since 2017, ACCO has worked alongside the National Whistleblower Center (NWC) and whistleblower law firm Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto (KKC) to assist whistleblowers in filing SEC disclosures outlining allegations against Facebook and other social media companies for their mishandling of illegal content on their platforms. It was attorneys from these organizations who developed the novel legal theory deployed by Frances Haugen in her disclosure. The theory is based upon the argument that Facebook is violating SEC regulations by misleading investors in that it is profiting from illegal activity on its site and putting its shareholders at risk by failing to fully disclose the amount of illegal activity the site hosts and promotes.
According to The Washington Post, the newly filed whistleblower disclosure “alleges that the company prizes growth and profits over combating hate speech, misinformation and other threats to the public.” The whistleblower is a former member of Facebook’s Integrity team.
The whistleblower disclosure “goes on to allege that Facebook officials routinely undermined efforts to fight misinformation, hate speech and other problematic content out of fear of angering then-President Donald Trump and his political allies, or out of concern about potentially dampening the user growth key to Facebook’s multi-billion-dollar profits,” The Post reports.
The whistleblower alleges that Facebook exempted certain Trump-aligned news publishers, such as Breitbart News, from ordinary rules against spreading false news reports. The whistleblower also claims the company was not “aggressive enough in addressing evidence that the platform was being used by military officials in Myanmar to spread hate speech during mass killings of the minority Rohingya ethnic group.”
According to the disclosure, when the whistleblower raised these concerns and others within the company, a Facebook official responded, “We need to focus on the good.”
In a statement, Gretchen Peters, ACCO Executive Director, said, “Zuckerberg and other Facebook executives repeatedly claimed high rates of success in restricting illicit and toxic content – to lawmakers, regulators and investors – when in fact they knew the firm could not remove this content and remain profitable.”
“How many whistleblowers must come forward for Facebook to end this dishonesty and admit that it cannot root out this heinous and illegal activity on their platform?” said NWC Executive Director Siri Nelson. “We commend these relentless Facebook whistleblowers for making crucial disclosures and call upon the SEC to take needed corrective action. Enforcement agencies cannot continue to treat massive tech companies like start-ups when the influence of Facebook spans billions of users and the whistleblowers’ serious allegations relate to the public good. Multi-billion-dollar sanctions are the only thing that will change conduct at companies as large as Facebook.”