Global social media conglomerate, Facebook faces deep crisis, as an array of US news outlets begun publishing a series of 'leaked' documents disclosing how Facebook apparently intensified political division.
On Friday, 17 US news outlets began publishing a series of stories —"The Facebook Papers" — cited a stove of leaked documents, which Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen's legal provided to regulators at the US Securities and Exchange Commission, report CNN.
The crisis could be the most intense and wide-ranging crisis in the company's 17-year history.
CNN's published stories about how coordinated groups on Facebook sow discord and violence, including on January 6, as well as Facebook's challenges moderating content in some non-English-speaking countries, and how human traffickers have used its platforms to exploit people.
The reports from the consortium of news outlets, follow a month of intense scrutiny for the company.
More revelations from leaked documents appear in store, and a former member of Facebook's integrity team emerged Friday as another whistleblower.
The Wall Street Journal previously published a series of stories based on tens of thousands of pages of internal Facebook documents leaked by Haugen.
The publication of the Journal's "Facebook Files," which raised concerns about the impact of Instagram on teen girls, among other issues, prompted a Senate subcomittee hearing with Facebook head of global safety Antigone Davis.
Haugen herself then testified before the Senate subcommittee, during which she said she believes that "Facebook's products harm children, stoke division, and weaken our democracy."
There's currently no end in sight for Facebook's troubles. Members of the subcommittee have called for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to testify.
The crisis could be the most intense and wide-ranging crisis in the company's 17-year history. The company has dealt with scandals over its approach to data privacy, content moderation and competitors before.
But the new leaked documents reveals some serious problems including its approach to combatting hate speech and misinformation, managing international growth, protecting younger users on its platform and even its ability to accurately measure the size of its massive audience.
The leaked documents make Facebook uncomfortable but the company has repeatedly tried to discredit Haugen, and said her testimony and reports on the documents mischaracterize its actions and efforts.
"At the heart of these stories is a premise which is false," a Facebook spokesperson told CNN.
In a tweet thread last week, Facebook' Vice President of Communications, John Pinette, called the Facebook Papers a "curated selection out of millions of documents at Facebook" which "can in no way be used to draw fair conclusions about us."
Faced with the mounting criticism, Facebook on Friday detailed anew steps it has taken to protect the election and keep the social network safe.
"Our comprehensive strategy to protect the US 2020 elections began years before the election cycle even began and was designed to last through the inauguration," Facebook vice president of integrity Guy Rosen said in a blog post.
"Responsibility for the insurrection itself falls squarely on the insurrectionists who broke the law and those who incited them."
Facebook's tenacious efforts to fend off critics is not likely to appease elected officials openly calling for action against the tech giant.
The company is now reportedly planning to rebrand itself under a new name as early as this week.
Haugen has suggested Facebook's failure to fix such problems is in part because it prioritizes profit over societal good, and, in some cases, because the company lacks the capacity to put out its many fires at once.
"Facebook is extremely thinly staffed ... and this is because there are a lot of technologists that look at what Facebook has done and their unwillingness to accept responsibility, and people just aren't willing to work there," Haugen said in a briefing with the "Facebook Papers" consortium last week. "So they have to make very, very, very intentional choices on what does or doesn't get accomplished."
Facebook has invested a total of $13 billion since 2016 to improve the safety of its platforms, according to the company spokesperson. However, the company's annual revenue topped $85 billion last year and its profit hit $29 billion.
The spokesperson also said Facebook has "40,000 people working on the safety and security on our platform, including 15,000 people who review content in more than 70 languages working in more than 20 locations all across the world to support our community."
"We have also taken down over 150 networks seeking to manipulate public debate since 2017, and they have originated in over 50 countries, with the majority coming from or focused outside of the US," the spokesperson said. "Our track record shows that we crack down on abuse outside the US with the same intensity that we apply in the US."
Still, the documents suggest that the company has much more work to do to eliminate all of the many harms outlined in the documents, and to address the unintended consequences of Facebook's unprecedented reach and integration into our daily lives.