Thousands of pages of internal Facebook documents have been published showing employee anger at the incitement to violence on the social network and how Apple threatened to remove the app due to concerns about abuse.
The documents were obtained by the former Facebook data scientist turned whistleblower Frances Haugen facing the deputies today as they scrutinize the UK government’s plans to crack down on harmful online content.
She testified before the US Senate earlier this month on the danger Facebook poses, she said, ranging from harming children to inciting political violence and disinformation.
Facebook whistleblower explains why Instagram is ‘more dangerous’ than other platforms – Frances Haugen’s testimony as it happened
Here, Sky News examines key revelations from the Facebook documents that were provided to Congress in drafted form by Ms Haugen’s legal team and were obtained by a consortium of news agencies.
• Facebook and Instagram were almost removed from Apple’s app store
Apple has threatened to remove Facebook and Instagram from its app store, fearing the platform could be used as a tool to trade and sell housekeepers.
The tech giant launched the threat two years ago, citing sample photos of maids and their biographical details appearing online, according to internal Facebook documents seen by the Associated Press.
Even today, a quick search for “khadima” or “chambermaids” in Arabic, will bring up accounts featuring photographs of Africans and South Asians with ages and prices listed next to their names. images, AP reported.
After Facebook took action and disabled more than 1,000 accounts, Apple apparently abandoned its threat a week later.
In a statement, Facebook said it took the issue of maid abuse seriously, despite the continued running of ads exploiting foreign workers in the Middle East.
“We are outlawing human exploitation in plain language,” the social media giant said.
“We have been fighting human trafficking on our platform for many years and our goal remains to prevent anyone who seeks to exploit others from having a home on our platform.”
• Zuckerberg “personally decided” to censor anti-government dissidents in Vietnam
Mark Zuckerberg had to choose last year to either comply with demands by the ruling Communist Party in Vietnam to censor anti-government dissidents or risk being taken offline in one of Facebook’s most lucrative Asian markets, according to the Washington Post.
Facebook’s chief executive has personally decided that the company will comply with Hanoi’s demands, three people familiar with the decision told the newspaper after speaking on condition of anonymity.
Ahead of the Vietnamese party congress in January, Facebook dramatically increased censorship of “anti-state” posts, giving the government near-total control over the platform, according to local activists and free speech advocates.
The social network generates more than $ 1 billion in annual revenue in Vietnam, according to a 2018 estimate from Amnesty International.
Facebook told the Washington Post that the choice to censor is justified “to ensure that our services remain available to the millions of people who depend on them every day.”
A spokeswoman denied that Zuckerberg’s decisions “cause prejudice”, saying the complaint was based on “selected documents that are misinterpreted and devoid of any context.”
“We have no business or moral incentive to do anything other than give as many people as possible a positive experience,” the spokesperson said.
• Facebook plans to abandon likes rather than impact on young people
Facebook researchers looked at the impact of dropping likes on posts over concerns about their impact on young people, according to documents viewed by The New York Times.
The 2019 study looked at what people would do if Facebook removed the separate thumbs-up icon and other emoji reactions from posts on its Instagram photo-sharing app, the newspaper reported.
The buttons had caused “stress and anxiety” to younger Instagram users, the researchers found, especially if the posts were not getting enough likes from friends.
But researchers found that when the Like button was hidden, users interacted less with posts and ads.
At the same time, the young users did not share more photos, contrary to what the company thought.
Zuckerberg and other managers have discussed hiding the Like button for more Instagram users, according to the documents.
But in the end, a larger test was deployed in limited capacity to “build a positive press story” around Instagram, the New York Times said.
Facebook declined to comment when contacted by Sky News in 2019 Speaking of reports, he was considering an attempt to hide the number of likes that posts receive.
• Outrage by Facebook staff at company response to attack on U.S. Capitol
Hours after rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol in January, Facebook’s chief technology officer posted on the company’s internal bulletin board, according to documents seen by NBC News.
“Wait everyone,” wrote Mike Schroepfer.
Facebook should allow peaceful discussion of the riot but not calls for violence, he added.
His post reportedly elicited scathing responses from employees who blamed the company for what was going on.
“I am struggling to match my values to my job here,” one staff member wrote in a comment.
“I came here hoping to make changes and improve society, but all I saw was atrophy and abdication of responsibility.”
Another employee asked, “How can we ignore when leadership trumps policy decisions based on research to better serve people as the groups inciting violence today?” “
Facebook told NBC News that 83% of its employees say they would recommend it as a great place to work and that it has hired more staff this year than any previous year.
• Facebook has set up “war rooms” to monitor electoral posts – and put countries in “levels” of priority
After Facebook announced where it would invest resources to improve protections around the global elections in 2019, the company reportedly ranked countries around the world in priority “tiers”.
Brazil, India and the United States were placed in “zero level”, the highest priority, according to documents viewed by The Verge.
Facebook has set up “war rooms” to continuously monitor the network and created dashboards to analyze network activity and alert local officials to any issues, the tech website reported.
Germany, Indonesia, Iran, Israel and Italy have been placed at Tier 1, meaning they will not receive resources for Facebook’s rule enforcement and alerts outside of the period directly around the elections.
At level two, 22 countries were added. They should do without the war rooms, which Facebook also calls “enhanced operations centers”.
The rest of the world has been placed in level three. This meant that Facebook would review election-related material if it was fed back by content moderators, but otherwise it wouldn’t intervene.
In 2019, Facebook took several journalists to Dublin’s war room at the heart of its efforts to protect the European elections.
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• Facebook alarmed by drop in teenage users
Facebook researchers wrote a report in March highlighting the social network’s loss of popularity with teens and young adults, according to internal documents seen by Bloomberg.
One graph showed that “time spent” by American teens on Facebook was down 16% year over year, the outlet reported.
In the United States, young adults were also spending 5% less time on social media, he said.
The number of teens signing up to the site was declining and young people were also taking a much longer time to join Facebook than in the past, according to research.
Most people born before 2000 had created a Facebook account by the age of 19 or 20, according to the study.
But the company didn’t expect people born later to join the social network until they were much older, maybe 24 or 25 – if ever.
Regarding the leaked documents, Facebook said that “a curated selection from millions of documents on Facebook can in no way be used to draw fair conclusions about us.”
“Internally, we share the work in progress and discuss options,” said a statement.
“Not all suggestions stand up to the scrutiny we must apply to decisions affecting so many people.”
© Sky News 2021