Everything You Need to Know about Facebook Papers

"History will not judge us kindly"
By Savannah Moss
Image: Dawid Sokołowski | Unsplash

The Facebook Papers, a collaboration or series of articles posted from several different news websites, has added new perspectives regarding the Jan. 6 capital attack and how Facebook might have contributed. It also shed light on different issues as well that Facebook has been called out for, such as hate speech in languages other than English.

What are the Facebook Papers?

The Facebook Papers is a huge project that over 17 news sites contributed to. After working to obtain thousands of company documents from Frances Haugen, former project manager for Facebook but now a whistleblower. Both groups from the news websites in America and a consortium from European news outlets had the same access to the documents and both groups were set to post analyzations from the content at 7 a.m EDT today. This type of investigation on Facebook is not new, as Wall Street Journal once published “The Facebook Files.” However, the papers themselves refer to the information Haugen has released in disclosures to the Security and Exchange Commission about concerns relating to safety and how Facebook continuously ignored these for profits. These documents are also possessed by Congress for investigation, and as their findings are released and more documents become available, the Facebook Papers consortium will also continue to report their findings.

What did the Facebook Papers uncover? 

The consortium covered a wide range of topics and issues within Facebook, from the January 6 capitol attack to how Facebook handles hate speech in different languages. For example, the documents revealed that though Facebook had placed measures ahead of the 2020 election, 22 of the measures had been set aside after the election and predating January 6, according to CNBC. Additionally, the reports also showed how moderation of harmful content can be impacted by languages that are not English, meaning that some people have been able to use symbols or extra spacing in words that might set off red flags in Facebook’s system.

On Twitter, many are upset and outraged that Facebook continuously has issues like widespread misinformation and things that are harmful to communities. Not only does Facebook continue to struggle with this issue, but the documents also seem to reveal that Facebook knew about these issues and did not wish to take preventive measures.

In an article written by The Atlantic, the author breaks down the events of January 6th and how Facebook employees reacted via the workplace messaging site known as Workplace. Though both CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Chief Technology Officer Mike Schoepfer tried to keep things positive, employees were outraged and believed that they did not take enough preventative measures, writing ““All due respect, but haven’t we had enough time to figure out how to manage discourse without enabling violence?” another staffer responded. “We’ve been fueling this fire for a long time and we shouldn’t be surprised it’s now out of control.” These documents reveal how employees believed Facebook was somewhat responsible for the riots and were not proactive about shutting down or reporting threats of violence. This article, a singular piece in the many documents published and will continue to be published as more documents around Facebook are released, only scratches the surface of the many issues people have with Facebook.

Facebook’s Response

Since the articles have been posted, Facebook denies that they do not ignore people’s safety for profit, saying that “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. The truth is we’ve invested $13 billion and have over 40,000 people to do one job: keep people safe on Facebook.” However, many people do not seem to buy this and believe that Facebook neglected people or chose to look away.

Frances Haugen, however, commits to using Twitter to be a resource to Facebook, referring to them as “an organization that has been quite opaque.” The reaction from most seem to be pretty clear regarding Facebook, and many are hopeful that repercussions or consequences will continue as more documents come to light regarding Facebook.