SAN FRANCISCO (NYTIMES) – At a question-and-answer session with workers final week, Fb chief govt Mark Zuckerberg was requested about Ms Frances Haugen, a former product manager turned whistle-blower who had testified to the US Senate in regards to the firm’s dangerous actions.
Mr Zuckerberg spent about 20 minutes discussing the whistle-blower, her testimony and up to date media protection, all with out mentioning Ms Haugen by identify, in line with a recording of the assembly The New York Occasions obtained.
A few of her assertions on how the platform polarises individuals, he instructed workers, have been “fairly simple to debunk”.
His feedback have been a part of an inside effort that Fb has begun to handle the fallout from Ms Haugen’s revelations. At the same time as Fb executives have publicly questioned Ms Haugen’s credibility and referred to as her accusations unfaithful, they’ve been equally lively with their inside positioning as they attempt to grasp on to the goodwill of greater than 63,000 employees and assuage their considerations in regards to the whistle-blower.
To counter Ms Haugen’s claims – which have been backed by inside paperwork that confirmed Fb’s providers harm some youngsters’s vanity and abetted human trafficking – executives have carried out reside inside occasions with workers, held emergency briefing periods and despatched quite a few memos, in line with a few of the memos obtained by the Occasions and interviews with a few dozen present and former workers.
Firm officers have additionally supplied info on how workers ought to reply when they’re “requested questions on current occasions by family and friends”, in line with one memo.
Fb has acted swiftly as workers have turn into divided on Ms Haugen, the individuals mentioned. In inside messages from the previous week seen by the Occasions, one employee mentioned Ms Haugen was “saying issues that many individuals right here have been saying for years” and that the corporate ought to take heed to her. One other referred to as her testimony “superb” and mentioned she was a “hero”.
However others mentioned Ms Haugen ought to be served with a cease-and-desist order or sued for breaking her non-disclosure settlement with Fb. A number of disparaged her for missing information of the subjects she addressed in her congressional testimony, in line with messages considered by the Occasions.
The worker debate is the most recent headache for Fb created by Ms Haugen, 37, who labored on the civic misinformation group for practically two years earlier than leaving in Could. Throughout her time on the firm, Ms Haugen amassed a trove of inside Fb analysis, which she has since distributed to information retailers, lawmakers and regulators to show that the social community knew about most of the sick results it was inflicting.
Her disclosures have generated a firestorm of criticism, main Fb to pause the event of an Instagram service for kids. Moreover, its international head of security, Ms Antigone Davis, confronted sharp questioning from Congress. After Ms Haugen revealed her id, she instructed Congress that Fb was intentionally retaining individuals – together with youngsters – hooked to its providers. Many lawmakers thanked her for coming ahead.
In an announcement on Sunday (Oct 10), Mr Andy Stone, a Fb spokesman, mentioned: “Since a lot of what has been reported about Fb is flawed, we expect it is necessary to offer our workers with the info.”
Ms Haugen declined to touch upon Mr Zuckerberg’s remarks or the interior discussions, however mentioned in an announcement that she got here ahead partly due to what she referred to as understaffing of groups that labored on misinformation and defending elections.
She mentioned her former Fb colleagues “deserve staffing that displays the big magnitude of the work they’re doing”.
Through the years, Fb’s workers have turn into more and more outspoken. In June final yr, as an illustration, a whole lot of employees staged a walkout to protest towards their bosses’ lack of motion on inflammatory posts that then US President Donald Trump had printed on the positioning.
These disagreements, together with questions that Fb has confronted over spreading misinformation and hate speech, have chipped away on the firm’s picture, which may make it tougher to recruit new employees.
So when Ms Haugen revealed herself and mentioned Fb had chosen “income earlier than security”, executives swung into motion. Over the previous week, a number of company vice-presidents have held reside inside occasions to offer workers with extra info on how completely different elements of the corporate function, in line with a memo obtained by the Occasions.
The periods included ones with Mr Man Rosen, vice-president for integrity; Mr Ronan Bradley, vice-president for analytics and analysis; Ms Monika Bickert, vice-president for content material coverage; and Ms Pratiti Raychoudhury, vice-president and head of analysis, the memo mentioned.
Every talked about subjects akin to what the corporate understands about polarisation, adjustments to the information feed algorithm and the way executives have been retaining the social media platform protected.
Executives additionally distributed a listing of speaking factors, a replica of which was obtained by the Occasions, in order that workers knew what to say if family and friends requested them about “current occasions”. That checklist included a denial that Fb places revenue and progress above individuals’s security and the way the corporate has referred to as for rules from the federal government.
In Mr Zuckerberg’s recurrently scheduled question-and-answer session with workers, which came about final Thursday, he defended Fb and disputed Ms Haugen’s characterisations, the recording of the assembly reveals.
“We care deeply about points like security and well-being and psychological well being,” he mentioned at one level. “So if you see press protection that simply misrepresents our work and takes that out of context after which makes use of that to inform narratives which can be false about our motives, it is actually laborious and disheartening…”
Between questions on a crippling Facebook outage on Oct 4, when all the firm’s apps grew to become inaccessible globally for greater than 5 hours, and points surrounding labour certification for international workers, Mr Zuckerberg additionally argued that Fb spent much more on analysis and security than bigger corporations akin to Google, Apple and Microsoft.
He additionally assured workers that Fb would finally come out for the higher.
“The trail to the long run just isn’t clean, proper? It isn’t this, like this straight line,” Mr Zuckerberg mentioned. “, typically, you get thrashed.”
Exterior of the assembly, workers have had livid debates about Ms Haugen and her claims. Some have argued that Fb ought to invite her to talk at a company-wide assembly, in line with messages considered by the Occasions. One mentioned her testimony was a “wake-up name” for Fb that felt lengthy overdue.
However different employees questioned Ms Haugen’s motives, her background and her credentials. In a single inside message, an worker mentioned Ms Haugen was “clueless”. Some mentioned she lacked technical information.
“She did not know the way fundamental stacks labored,” wrote one Fb engineer, referring to a time period utilized by the engineering group to explain how information is structured in pc programing. He additionally mentioned all of her testimony ought to be disqualified.
Others mentioned Ms Haugen and media protection had misrepresented the sort of work they do at Fb. In two public weblog posts final week, Ms Veronika Belokhvostova, a Fb director who oversees information science, collected testimonials from colleagues to level out how a lot progress they’d made on security, speech and different points over the previous few years.
Some workers additionally speculated that Ms Haugen was motivated to leak as a result of she was not allowed to work remotely from Puerto Rico, the place she had moved through the coronavirus pandemic.
The discussions grew to become so intense that Fb’s inside communications division issued a directive final week for employees to not disparage Ms Haugen.
“We’re more and more listening to about reporter requests to workers to debate Frances Haugen and other people’s sentiments about her,” Ms Andrea Saul, a director of coverage communications, mentioned in a memo considered by the Occasions.
“We now have had workers particularly ask if they will defend the corporate by referencing experiences they’d together with her. PLEASE DO NOT ENGAGE in these conversations.
“Disparaging her personally just isn’t proper, it isn’t allowed, and it isn’t who we’re as an organization,” Ms Saul wrote.