Frances Haugen testifies before Congress.
Photo: Jabin Botsford-Pool/Getty Images

The Facebook Papers fallout

Source Code

Good morning! This Tuesday, the timing of the Facebook Papers news dump could spell trouble for the company, Tesla got its fourth comma, and FaZe Clan hit unicorn status.

Timing is everything

On Facebook's earnings call yesterday, Mark Zuckerberg took serious issue with the Facebook Papers both in content and in strategy. "Good faith criticism helps us get better," he said, "but my view is that what we are seeing is a coordinated effort to selectively use leaked documents to paint a false picture of our company."

Facebook has a lot going on, and a lot going for it. On that same earnings call, the company announced it made more than $9 billion in the previous quarter, and is retooling the entire company around the metaverse and better serving young users. It has a developer conference this week, and it might even change the name of the company.

But the Facebook Papers seemed to be the only thing on anyone's mind. Including Zuckerberg's. And that was pretty clearly the goal: Monday's story dump wasn't just designed for mass awareness. It was designed for mass destruction.

There's a little something for everyone in the leak because of its sheer scope. And it's not over yet. As more documents are released, there will undoubtedly be more stories to come.

  • If it's evidence of Facebook stoking racial animus in the U.S. you seek, look no further than this piece on the internal war over Breitbart's position as a news partner in the aftermath of George Floyd's murder.
  • If you're worried about Facebook's impact on other countries, here's a story on how Mark Zuckerberg caved to the Vietnamese government's efforts to stifle dissidents.
  • And here's another about an internal test that found Facebook was leading users in India to graphic violence. "I've seen more images of dead people in the past three weeks than I've seen in my entire life total," a Facebook researcher wrote in one internal report.
  • If you have money in Facebook, there's a story for you, too, about Facebook's internal reports on waning growth with young people, which Bloomberg argues left investors "in the dark."

Facebook won't have a say in how the stories play out. For years, the company has divvied up news on its own terms — the same kind of terms around timing and citation it now criticizes reporters for accepting from Frances Haugen.

  • The company has been strategic with the internal metrics it shares in its quarterly transparency reports, which are both more robust than the rest of the industry and yet still incomplete.
  • In those reports, Facebook touts the fact that AI removes the vast majority of the hate speech it sees, all the while banking on the fact that no one knows just how much hate speech it doesn't see, and therefore, doesn't remove. At least, no one outside of Facebook, that is.

Now, it's Haugen doing the divvying and Haugen deciding what metrics matter. With so many closely held internal findings out in the open, it's hard to imagine any amount of spin that Facebook could put out to counter the narrative she and her documents have created — and that more than a dozen newsrooms and some of their best reporters have spent the last few weeks corroborating.

  • The Facebook Papers themselves are part of disclosures made to the Securities and Exchange Commission and provided to Congress in redacted form by Frances Haugen's legal counsel.
  • Through her complaint, Haugen hopes to convince the SEC that devastating damage to Facebook's reputation could equal devastating damage to its financial prospects.

By unleashing the Facebook Papers the same day as Facebook's earnings and the same week as its big metaverse fête, Haugen has a chance to prove if she's right.

Issie Lapowsky (email | twitter)

A version of this story first appeared on protocol.com. Read it here.

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A MESSAGE FROM FACEBOOK

Jack is one of 40,000 people working on safety and security issues at Facebook. Hear more from Jack on why Facebook supports updating regulations on the internet's most pressing challenges, including reforming Section 230 to set clear guidelines for all large tech companies.

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People are talking

On Protocol | Policy: After leaving Facebook's integrity team, Sahar Massachi co-founded the Integrity Institute to help every company build a better one:

  • "Frances is exposing a lot of the knobs in the machine that is a modern social media platform. Now that people know that those knobs exist, we can start having a conversation about what is the science of how these work, what these knobs do and why you would want to turn them in which direction."

Despite supply-chain issues, Amazon global deliveries chief John Felton said the company is ready to tackle the holidays:

  • "We prepare all year round for this time of year, and we are excited and ready to deliver for you."

Elon Musk revealed he only owns three kinds of crypto, and offered some advice for investors:

  • "As I've said before, don't bet the farm on crypto! True value is building products & providing services to your fellow human beings, not money in any form."

Anthony Scaramucci says bitcoin has big potential:

  • "Anybody that does the homework … ends up investing into it."

NTSB's Jennifer Homendy said Tesla hasn't done enough to address safety guidance:

  • "The NTSB appreciates the productive and professional cooperation extended by Tesla's technical staff … Tesla's action — or rather, inaction — to implement critical NTSB safety recommendations has not demonstrated the same productivity or professionalism."

Making moves

Faze Clan is going public. The gaming company is merging with a SPAC in a deal valuing the company at $1 billion.

Tesla just became a $1 trillion company. Its stock spiked after Hertz ordered 100,000 cars for over $4 billion, Tesla's largest order yet.

Allan Leinwand is Shopify's new CTO. Previously Leinwand was an SVP of engineering at Slack.

Jessica Hertz is reportedly heading to Shopify as general counsel. She most recently worked in the White House as staff secretary.

Karen Zacharia will retire from Verizon next year. Zacharia has been the company's chief privacy officer for about a decade.

In other news

The TikTok, Snap and YouTube hearing is today. Execs will be asked to explain how their platforms affect the mental health of young users. But if you want to know where real work is being done on these issues? Pay attention to the FTC.

Blue Origin is creating a "business park" for space. The company is working with Sierra Space on the private space station, called "Orbital Reef," which could be used for everything from research to space tourism.

Alexa is helping out hospitals and senior care facilities. Amazon is rolling out programs that allow facilities to communicate with residents using Amazon Echo, and lets families and friends use Alexa to talk with residents.

The State Department is building a cyber office. The department also plans to tap a person or group that can tackle topics relating to upcoming and critical tech, and Antony Blinken is expected to discuss those changes later this week.

Russia fined Google, and Google paid up. The company handed over a little less than half a million dollars for failing to remove content the country says is illegal.

Spotify is the place to work, according to a new ranking from Newsweek. The music streaming company, as well as Dell and SAP, took the top three spots in "America's Most Loved Workplaces." Twitter and Instacart also made the list.

Are you doomscrolling?

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The account snaps you out of your social media reverie by reminding you that you don't need to spend so much time scrolling. Most of its tweets begin with a simple, "hi, are you doomscrolling?" followed by a few words on why it may be helpful to take a break. So listen to the bot; it's here to help us all.

A MESSAGE FROM FACEBOOK

Jack is one of 40,000 people working on safety and security issues at Facebook. Hear more from Jack on why Facebook supports updating regulations on the internet's most pressing challenges, including reforming Section 230 to set clear guidelines for all large tech companies.

Learn more

Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to sourcecode@protocol.com, or our tips line, tips@protocol.com. Enjoy your day, see you tomorrow.

Correction: This story has been updated to properly attribute Sahar Massachi's quote about the Integrity Institute. Update 10/26/2021.

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