A second Facebook whistleblower has come forward with a new set of allegations about how the social media platform does business. First reported by the Washington Post, the person is a former member of Facebook’s integrity team and says the company puts profits before efforts to fight hate speech and misinformation on its platform.
In the affidavit, copies of which were provided to The Verge, the whistleblower alleges, among other things, that a former Facebook communications official dismissed concerns about interference by Russia in the 2016 presidential election, assisted unwittingly by Facebook. Tucker Bounds said, according to the affidavit, that the situation would be “a flash in the pan. 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 whistleblower alleged differences between Facebook’s public statements and internal decision-making in other areas. They say that 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.
The company told the Post “It sets a dangerous precedent to hang an entire story on a single source making a wide range of claims without any apparent corroboration.” A Facebook spokesperson submitted a statement from the company without a person’s name attached to it, which called this reporting “beneath” the Post, and claims “At the heart of this story is a premise that is false. Yes, we’re a business and we make profit, but the idea that we do so at the expense of people’s safety or wellbeing misunderstands where our own commercial interests lie.”
Many of the allegations by this whistleblower, who submitted affidavits to the Securities and Exchange Commission, echo the concerns raised by Frances Haugen. Also a former Facebook employee, Haugen provided internal documents to the Wall Street Journal for a series of reports on the platform. Most notable was internal research that found Facebook was aware its Instagram platform was toxic for teenagers.
Haugen testified before Congress on October 5th that Facebook had “repeatedly” misled the public about “what its own research reveals about the safety of children and the efficacy of its artificial intelligence systems as a role in spreading divisive and extreme messages.”
Update October 22nd, 8:36PM ET: Added response from a Facebook spokesperson.