Facebook and the whistle-blowers in its ranks.


This week, Facebook has faced a series of accusations about its internal workings, based on revelations in the Wall Street Journal and elsewhere.

Much of the information comes from Facebook’s own internal documents, suggesting the company now has some whistle-blowers in its ranks.

However, Facebook has defended itself against all the accusations. Here are five things that were revealed this week:

Celebrities were treated differently by Facebook

According to documents reported by the Wall Street Journal, many celebrities, politicians and high-profile Facebook users had different rules governing what content they could post, under a system known as XCheck (cross-check).

Facebook has admitted criticism of the way it implemented its cross-check system was “fair” – but said it was designed to create “an additional step” when posted content required more understanding.

“This could include activists raising awareness of instances of violence or journalists reporting from conflict zones,” it said. In a blog this week, it said the disclosures had “drawn renewed attention to the seemingly inconsistent way that the company makes decisions”. It has asked for a detailed explanation of how the cross-check system works.

Its response to employee concerns about human trafficking was often ‘weak’

The documents reported by the WSJ also suggested Facebook employees regularly flagged information about drug cartels and human traffickers on the platform but the company’s response was “weak”.

In November 2019, BBC News Arabic broadcast a report highlighting the issue of domestic workers for sale on Instagram.

According to internal documents, Facebook was already well aware of the issue. The WSJ reported that Facebook took only limited action until Apple threatened to remove its products from its App Store.

In its defence, Facebook said it had a “comprehensive strategy” to keep people safe including “global teams with native speakers covering over 50 languages, educational resources and partnerships with local experts and third-party fact-checkers”.

Critics warn that Facebook does not have the means to moderate all the content on its platform and protect its 2.8 billion users.

Facebook faces a huge lawsuit from shareholders

Facebook is also facing a complex lawsuit from a group of its own shareholders. The group alleges, among other things, that Facebook’s $5bn (£3.65bn) payment to the US Federal Trade Commission to resolve the Cambridge Analytica data scandal was so high because it was designed to protect Mark Zuckerberg from personal liability.

Has Facebook been promoting positive stories about itself.

This week, the New York Times suggested that Facebook had started an initiative to pump pro-Facebook content into people’s news feeds in order to boost its image.

The newspaper said Project Amplify was designed to “show people positive stories about the social network”. Facebook said there had been no changes to its newsfeed ranking systems.

Facebook knew Instagram was ‘toxic’ for teens

Another significant revelation from the Facebook Files was the discovery that the company had conducted detailed research into how Instagram was affecting teenagers but did not share its findings when they suggested that the platform was a “toxic” place for many youngsters.

According to slides reported by the Wall Street Journal, 32% of teenage girls surveyed said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse.

Fox News reported this week that the whistle-blower behind the leaked document will reveal their identity and co-operate with Congress.

What do you think?

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