A lengthy internal memo by an outgoing Facebook employee accuses the social media giant of ignoring or being too slow to respond to multiple known instances of fake accounts undermining democracies and political affairs around the world.
Buzzfeed today revealed parts of Sophie Zhang’s explosive 6600 word memo which includes accusations of failing to stop political manipulation and election interference, as well as a lack of support for Facebook moderators.
Revelations include Facebook taking nine months to act on a known coordinated campaign to disrupt the Honduras elections, taking a year to begin investigating the Azerbaijan government’s use of “inauthentic assets” to “harass the opposition en masse”, removing more than 10 million fake reactions and fans of high profile Brazilian and American politicians, extensive bot activity in Bolivia and Ecuador which was not prioritised due to workload, and a “a politically-sophisticated network of more than a thousand actors working on the platform to influence local elections in India.”
“I have personally made decisions that affected national presidents without oversight, and taken action to enforce against so many prominent politicians globally that I’ve lost count,” Zhang wrote, according to Buzzfeed.
“I know that I have blood on my hands by now.”
Sophie Zhang says she is a former Facebook data scientist who worked for the Facebook Site Integrity fake engagement team. She says she turned down a $US64,000 severance package from Facebook that included signing a nondisparagement agreement, allowing her to share the memo with colleagues.
But she reportedly does not want to go public out of fears of disrupting Facebook’s efforts to monitor the upcoming US election. Buzzfeed says it is publishing only parts of the memo because they are “clearly in the public interest”.
Part of Zhang’s post suggests Facebook lacks the appropriate oversight for a platform which now includes more than a third of the world.
“With no oversight whatsoever, I was left in a situation where I was trusted with immense influence in my spare time,” Zhang wrote. “A manager on Strategic Response mused to myself that most of the world outside the West was effectively the Wild West with myself as the part-time dictator — he meant the statement as a compliment, but it illustrated the immense pressures upon me.”
A Facebook spokesperson told Buzzfeed it has specialised teams investigating inauthentic behaviour.
“It’s highly involved work that these teams do as their full-time remit,” Facebook spokesperson Liz Bourgeois said in a statement.
“Working against coordinated inauthentic behaviour is our priority, but we’re also addressing the problems of spam and fake engagement. We investigate each issue carefully, including those that Ms. Zhang raises, before we take action or go out and make claims publicly as a company.”