Everything you need to know about the Facebook Papers
Frances Haugen's decision to open the trove of internal Facebook documents up to various news outlets sparked a feeding frenzy.
For months, the team behind Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen has carefully leaked a vast assortment of redacted documents that reveal the inner workings at the social giant in disclosures to the SEC and Congress.
We've rounded up all the stories that matter to have come out of these internal documents.
- Here's what happened when Facebook stops protecting users — on purpose. Facebook conducted experiments where it withholds certain protections from a subset of users to see how they'll react.
- Frances Haugen thinks Mark Zuckerberg should step down. "I think it is unlikely the company will change if he remains the CEO ... I think Facebook would be stronger with someone who is willing to focus on safety."
- We rounded up as much of the Facebook Papers news coverage from all around the internet as we could.
- Employees have been sounding the alarm on Facebook's role in climate misinformation for years, and Facebook has spent years resisting calls to outright forbid climate misinformation on the platform.
- The Papers show that employees like criticizing Facebook just as much as everyone else does!
- Tech companies that aren't Facebook have felt more than a smidge of schadenfreude watching this all go down. But rival services also worry that the intensified fury of lawmakers and regulators may turn on them, too.
- Two former Facebook integrity researchers are launching their own super group of former and current integrity workers in tech.
- Facebook can't find enough candidates to meet engineering demand, especially in the Bay Area, and has struggled and failed to meet early 2021 recruiting goals.
- Facebook knows a thing or two about optimizing content for outrage. As it turns out, so does Frances Haugen. Her decision to open the trove of documents up to outlets beyond the Journal sparked a feeding frenzy.
- Sophie Zhang came forward with allegations against Facebook long before Frances Haugen. So how come it took so long for people to listen?
Here's what happened when Facebook stops protecting users — on purpose
Nov. 3, 2021
In her testimony before Congress last month, whistleblower Frances Haugen told lawmakers Facebook has conducted experiments where it withholds certain protections from a subset of users to see how they'll react. Facebook refers to this experimental group internally, she said, as "integrity holdouts."
Internal documents reveal a more complex story. According to one internal report from April 2019, Facebook has studied the impact of removing some protections against problematic content like clickbait and untrustworthy news for some users, but the results, at least in that report, were decidedly mixed.
Mark Zuckerberg should resign, Frances Haugen says
Frances Haugen thinks Mark Zuckerberg should step down. | Image: George Frey/Bloomberg; Getty Images; Protocol illustration
Nov. 1, 2021
Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen thinks Mark Zuckerberg should step down, she said Monday during an interview at Web Summit.
"I think it is unlikely the company will change if he remains the CEO. I hope that he sees that there is so much good he could do in the world and maybe it's a chance for someone else to maybe take the reins ... I think Facebook would be stronger with someone who is willing to focus on safety. So yes."
Facebook is grappling with its climate change deniers
Oct. 30, 2021
Employees have been sounding the alarm on Facebook's role in climate misinformation for years. Leaked documents reveal repeated instances of climate change misinformation popping up in prominent places.
But Facebook has spent years resisting calls to outright forbid climate misinformation on the platform. The company has, instead, touted its Climate Science Center, which launched last year, as one antidote to the problem.
The Facebook Papers show that employees like criticizing Facebook as much as everyone else does
Oct. 29, 2021
Facebook employees generally treat each other kindly on the Workplace, Facebook's internal communication forum that looks a bit like Facebook itself.
If an employee puts together a well-researched presentation, others cheer. But employees also use Workplace to level serious criticism and have hot-tempered discussions on issues ranging from Facebook's role in climate denial to how it should handle restricting and demoting content.
These candid conversations, which at times level serious criticisms at the company, are a product of Facebook's "open culture."
'The Eye of Sauron is looking elsewhere': How Twitter and Google really feel about Facebook's troublesThe backlash against Facebook could spill over and hurt other tech companies.Image: Christopher T. Fong/Protocol
Oct. 29, 2021
For weeks now, Facebook has dominated nearly every headline — and Twitter and Google are probably enjoying it. Washington's frustration with Facebook — now Meta — is a near constant in tech policy, but policymakers' ire at the company has grown in recent weeks thanks to the extensive documents still being made public.
Tech companies that aren't Facebook, meanwhile, often feel more than a smidge of schadenfreude seeing a competitor's difficulties, even as they try to avoid scrutiny of their own. Still, rival services also worry that the intensified fury of lawmakers and regulators may well turn on them.
They left Facebook's integrity team. Now they want the world to know how it works — without breaking their NDAs.
Oct. 26, 2021
Shortly before he left Facebook in October 2019, Jeff Allen published his last report as a data scientist for the company's integrity team — the team Facebook Papers whistleblower Frances Haugen has recently made famous.
The report revealed, as Allen put it at the time, some "genuinely horrifying" findings. Now, Allen and Sahar Massachi, another former Facebook staffer who helped build the company's election and civic integrity teams, are launching an independent organization: the Integrity Institute.
Its goal? Build a network of integrity professionals who are currently employed or were previously employed by tech companies and work toward some kind of public consensus.
Facebook's hiring crisis: Engineers are turning down offers, internal docs show
Oct. 27, 2021
Facebook cannot find enough candidates to meet engineering demand, especially in the Bay Area, and has struggled and failed to meet early 2021 recruiting goals, according to a detailed internal memo outlining recruitment strategy and hiring pains.
"All of you are now starting to experience that major imbalance between supply and demand — and it doesn't feel good," a recruiting leader wrote in an internal memo.
It's Frances Haugen's world. We're all just living in it. Haugen's decision to open the trove of documents up to outlets beyond the Journal has sparked a feeding frenzy. Photo: Frances Haugen
Oct. 25, 2021
Facebook knows a thing or two about optimizing content for outrage. As it turns out, so does Frances Haugen.
Or at least, the heavyweight team of media and political operatives helping manage the rollout of her massive trove of internal documents seems to have learned the lesson well. Because the document dump known as the Facebook Papers, published the same day as Facebook's earnings call with investors and the same week as the conference where it plans to lay out its future as a metaverse company, wasn't just designed for mass awareness.
It was designed for mass destruction.
Here are all the Facebook Papers stories
Oct. 25, 2021
Monday morning's news drop was a doozy. There was story after story about the goings-on inside Facebook, thanks to thousands of leaked documents from Frances Haugen, the whistleblower who wants the information within those files to spread far and wide.
The stories started to publish on Oct. 22, but landed with a bang Monday morning and have been coming out ever since. Since they're spread across lots of publications, we've rounded them all up in one place (in no particular order), to make them easier to find and read. We've tried to focus on the stories about the documents themselves, rather than about the fallout or the PR spin or any of the other Facebook issues from this week. And we'll keep adding stories here as new ones publish.
'Not acceptable': Facebook Oversight Board will review cross-check system
Oct. 21, 2021
Facebook's Oversight Board is taking Facebook up on a request to review its system for vetting posts by high-profile users, which drew scrutiny after recent reporting in the Wall Street Journal.
The board said that the company's failure to be transparent about the two-track system it uses to vet posts by high-profile users — known internally as "cross-check" — was "not acceptable." It agreed to take Facebook up on its request to review the policy and issue guidance on how Facebook should deal with content violations by prominent users.
Facebook whistleblower Sophie Zhang has a message for the tech press, too
Zhang came forward with allegations against Facebook long before Frances Haugen. So how come it took so long for people to listen?
Frances Haugen, came forward with explosive allegations of her own about Facebook's impact on kids and democracy. Haugen's methodically managed revelations landed her an interview on "60 Minutes" and a seat before a Senate committee whose members hung on her every word. Zhang's revelations ... didn't. At least, not then.
But Haugen's debut has stirred up a new round of interest in what Zhang has to say.
'Beyond the pale': Former Facebook staffers react to the company's Haugen spinFormer Facebook staffers are spilling the tea over the company's public reaction to Frances Haugen's whistleblowing.Christopher T. Fong/Protocol
Oct. 8, 2021
Facebook's efforts to undermine the testimony of whistleblower Frances Haugen began before she even left the Senate Commerce Committee hearing room Tuesday. The counterattack strategy has differed dramatically from the regretful responses Facebook has offered in past episodes, like the Cambridge Analytica scandal. In those cases, the company often responded with an apology and a plan.
This time around, from Mark Zuckerberg on down, the company has been decidedly less apologetic, with Haugen as a case study for the new approach. For some former Facebook employees watching from home, the experiment in public aggression is backfiring.
Frances Haugen reveals herself as the Facebook whistleblower
Oct. 3, 2021
Former Facebook product manager Frances Haugen revealed herself to be the whistleblower behind The Wall Street Journal's Facebook Files series in an interview with 60 Minutes Sunday. Haugen is also set to appear before a Senate hearing on Tuesday.