Facebook has been in a lot of hot water lately. Its CEO has officially been named a defendant in an ongoing privacy suit, and they have also been slapped with big fines in the UK. Unfortunately for the social media giant, their troubles continue. A second whistleblower has come forward with a new set of allegations about how the company does business.
As reported by the Washington Post, the individual is a former member of Facebook’s integrity team. According to the whistleblower, the company puts profits before any efforts to fight hate speech and misinformation on its site. These new allegations were contained in a complaint to the Securities and Exchange Commission, the US agency that handles regulation to protect investors in publicly traded companies.
In the complaint (via The Guardian), the former employee explained how Facebook bosses frequently failed to enforce safety rules. They feared incurring the wrath of Donald Trump and his allies or offsetting the company’s huge growth. A specific incident alleges that Tucker Bounds, a Facebook communications official, dismissed concerns about the company’s role in manipulating the 2016 election.
“It will be a flash in the pan,” Bounds said about Facebook in the affidavit. “Some legislators will get pissy. And then in a few weeks, they will move on to something else. Meanwhile, we are printing money in the basement, and we are fine.” The new allegations brought forth by the anonymous whistleblower echo those of Frances Haugen, a former Facebook product manager who said the social media juggernaut repeatedly prioritizes profit over public safety.
Haugen’s explosive testimony before the United States Congress, and forthcoming testimony before parliament in the United Kingdom, have prompted a major public relations crisis for Facebook, which is supposedly preparing for a rebrand due to the whistleblowers’ claims.
Moreover, the new Facebook whistleblower said there were significant differences between Facebook’s public statements and internal decisions in other areas too. The Internet.org project to connect people in the “developing world” had internal messaging that the goal was to give Facebook an impenetrable foothold and become the “sole source of news” so they could harvest data from untapped markets.
In an interesting twist, Facebook spokesperson Erin McPike submitted a statement to the Washington Post, saying it sets a dangerous precedent to hang an entire story on a single source making a wide range of claims without any apparent corroboration. It also called the integrity of the Post into question, saying the reporting was beneath their standards.
“At the heart of this story is a false premise. Yes, we’re a business and we make a profit, but the idea that we do so at the expense of people’s safety or wellbeing misunderstands where our commercial interests lie,” McPike added in the statement on behalf of Facebook.
But the reports align with what others have shared about the social network. In her testimony, Haugen said that (at one point) Facebook changed its algorithm to improve safety and decrease inflammatory content but abandoned the changes after the election. The company also disbanded the civic integrity team after the election.
The whistleblower’s new allegations come as Facebook faces pressure from lawmakers on various fronts. This includes pending legislation from Congress, a lawsuit filed by US attorneys general, and a Federal Trade Commission lawsuit filed by the agency’s new chairwoman, Lina Khan.