Facebook, which has been under fire from a former employee who has revealed that the social network knew of many of the harms it was causing, was bracing for new accusations over the weekend from the whistle-blower and said in a memo that it was preparing to mount a vigorous defense.
The whistle-blower, whose identity has not been publicly disclosed, planned to accuse the company of relaxing its security safeguards for the 2020 election too soon after Election Day, which then led it to be used in the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, according to the internal memo obtained by The New York Times. The whistle-blower planned to discuss the allegations on “60 Minutes” on Sunday, the memo said, and was also set to say that Facebook had contributed to political polarization in the United States.
The 1,500-word memo, written by Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice president of policy and global affairs, was sent on Friday to employees to pre-empt the whistle-blower’s interview. Mr. Clegg pushed back strongly on what he said were the coming accusations, calling them “misleading.” “60 Minutes” published a teaser of the interview in advance of its segment on Sunday.
“Social media has had a big impact on society in recent years, and Facebook is often a place where much of this debate plays out,” he wrote. “But what evidence there is simply does not support the idea that Facebook, or social media more generally, is the primary cause of polarization.” (See below for the full memo.)
The former Facebook Inc. employee who gathered documents that formed the foundation of The Wall Street Journal’s Facebook Files series said she acted to help prompt change at the social-media giant, not to stir anger toward it.
Frances Haugen, a former product manager hired to help protect against election interference on Facebook, said she had grown frustrated by what she saw as the company’s lack of openness about its platforms’ potential for harm and unwillingness to address its flaws. She is scheduled to testify before Congress on Tuesday. She has also sought federal whistleblower protection with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
In a series of interviews, Ms. Haugen, who left the company in May after nearly two years, said that she had come into the job with high hopes of helping Facebook fix its weaknesses. She soon grew skeptical that her team could make an impact, she said. Her team had few resources, she said, and she felt the company put growth and user engagement ahead of what it knew through its own research about its platforms’ ill effects.
Toward the end of her time at Facebook, Ms. Haugen said, she came to believe that people outside the company—including lawmakers and regulators—should know what she had discovered.
“If people just hate Facebook more because of what I’ve done, then I’ve failed,” she said. “I believe in truth and reconciliation—we need to admit reality. The first step of that is documentation.”