REVEALED: Facebook lobbyists ‘tried to smear whistleblower as a partisan Democrat’ in calls to conservative lawmakers – as HALF the company’s workers say they doubt it contributes to societal good in internal survey
Facebook lobbyists attempted to use partisan rancor to head off criticism in the wake of devastating whistleblower leaks, while half of the company’s employees doubt it contributes to societal good, according to a new report.
After former Facebook employee Frances Haugen came forward in October with thousands of damaging internal documents, company lobbyists worked the phones furiously, calling Republican lawmakers and advocacy groups to accuse her of pushing a liberal agenda, according to a Wall Street Journal report on Wednesday.
Within days, similar claims began to appear in certain conservative-leaning publications, including articles calling Haugen ‘the frontwoman of a PR campaign pushed by the Democratic party,’ a ‘leftist activist’ and someone who is ‘part of a broader Democratic initiative.’
But soon enough, the Journal reported, Facebook tried to burn the candle at the other end by calling up Democrats in Congress and suggesting that Republicans were only upset at the company’s ban on expressions of support for Kyle Rittenhouse, the teen later acquitted of murder charges in Wisconsin.
The alleged strategy appears to have been an attempt to use partisan wedges to head off any unified government response, by fostering suspicion of Haugen’s motives in an already deeply polarized political climate.
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg spearheaded a sharp-elbowed response to whistleblower allegations, with company lobbyists reportedly using partisan rancor
After former Facebook employee Frances Haugen came forward in October with thousands of damaging internal documents, company lobbyists worked the phones furiously
Facebook employees are seen in a file photo. After the revelations, an internal survey reportedly found that half of staffers doubted the company contributes to social good
Haugen’s revelations spurred damaging reports that Facebook’s algorithms foster discord and that its own researchers concluded that its platforms, especially Instagram, could harm teen mental health.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg spearheaded a sharp-elbowed response, refusing to apologize publicly and instead changing the company’s name to Meta to highlight his focus on building a virtual reality metaverse.
‘When our work is being mischaracterized, we’re not going to apologize,’ a Facebook spokesman told the Journal. ‘We’re going to defend our record.’
But internally, the revelations appear to have fostered some level of bitterness, and more than half a doze Meta executives and other senior employees have either left the company or announced their departures.
Samidh Chakrabarti, who founded Facebook’s civic-integrity team and left the company earlier this year, has become and outspoken critic on Twitter following the revelations.
In response to the report on Facebook’s lobbying efforts, he tweeted on Wednesday: ‘Meta’s disingenuous spin of the FB Files as a partisan conspiracy isn’t just incorrect, but is another example of short-term thinking.’
‘Might forestall regulation for now, but makes it harder to get new recruits to sign offers without some level of shame,’ added Chakrabarti.
A Facebook spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment from DailyMail.com on Thursday morning.
Samidh Chakrabarti, who founded Facebook’s civic-integrity team and left the company earlier this year, tweeted criticism of the company’s alleged lobbying efforts
Haugen has testified before lawmakers in the U.S., Britain and Europe that that the company’s systems amplify extremism and that the company elevates profits over user safety
Inside Facebook, surveys in the weeks following Haugen’s revelations showed that employee ‘optimism’ fell by 10 percentage points, while other categories showed a conflicted workforce, according to the Journal.
Just under half of employees said they believed Facebook contributed to social good, and roughly the same amount said they had confidence in leadership.
However, employee concerns appeared to shift quickly away from societal issues, and within a few months questions about compensation and benefits surpassed those concerns in the top-ranked questions submitted to executives in weekly town hall sessions.
On November 18, the Journal reports the most popular question was: ‘Will our yearly salary raises reflect the increased levels of inflation we’ve been seeing?’
Facebook’s board of directors has also stood behind Zuckerberg’s response to the crisis is a key show of support.
Earlier this month, the board met for its annual retreat at Zuckerberg’s lavish 1,300-acre beachfront estate in Kauai, Hawaii
Earlier this month, the Meta board met for its annual retreat at Zuckerberg’s lavish 1,300-acre beachfront estate (above) in Kauai, Hawaii, where directors expressed support for the CEO
Among board members, longtime directors Peter Thiel (left) and Marc Andreessen (right) were reportedly the most vocal in encouraging Zuckerberg’s sharp-elbowed response
Meta vice-president for global affairs, and former United Kingdom deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, warned against new regulation saying it risks being ‘rushed through in anger’
Despite the recent troubles, the directors broadly expressed support for Zuckerberg’s response and pivot to focus on the metaverse, people familiar with the matter told the Journal.
Among board members, longtime directors Peter Thiel and Marc Andreessen were the most vocal in encouraging Zuckerberg’s sharp-elbowed response, the outlet reported.
The revelations in Haugen’s leaked documents, which were first reported by the Journal, have sparked a wave of government backlash, including four Congressional hearings and a bipartisan investigation by state attorneys general.
Haugen has testified before lawmakers in the U.S., Britain and Europe that that the company’s algorithms amplify extremism and that the company elevates profits over the user safety.
Meta vice-president for global affairs, and former United Kingdom deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, warned against new regulation saying it risks being ‘rushed through in anger’.
‘We’re going to see over the next few years new legislation in India, in Australia, in the UK, in the EU, possibly in the US, too,’ he told an Australian Strategic Policy Institute forum last month.
‘It’s all on the books, it’s in the pipeline.
‘Some of it, I think is really good. Some of it, I just happen to think it’s not very good. Some of it is rushed through in anger.’