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‘Culture’ ignores Facebook employees

Before Frances Haugen, some Facebook employees also spoke out about how the social network worked, but most failed and left in silence.

Earlier this year, when Frances Haugen was downloading thousands of pages of internal Facebook documents, another employee also submitted his resignation because there was no hope after many attempts to change the company. That person is Brian Waismeyer.

Frances Haugen testifies before the US Senate on October 5. Photo: Reuters

Like Haugen, Waismeyer is a member of Facebook’s equity control team. He expressed his displeasure on Workplace – where company employees often voice their opinions – through a farewell post. In it, he said Facebook has caused “particular difficulties” for people with jobs like him. He stressed the pressure was “to the point of hindering progress and incinerating those who struggled with it”.

Washington Post Collected Waismeyer’s content and leaked comments in the article, as well as the opinions of many former employees, and drew in common: Facebook is obsessed with growth, unwilling to implement systemic reform knowing full well how harmful they are, and ready to respond to political powers.

Interviewed former Facebook employees describe their “suffering process” at the world’s largest social network: from initial optimism that they could play a role in changing Facebook, to disappointment in what was seen inside the company, and finally to resigning because the attempt failed. A few chose to disclose it to the media, to lawmakers or release “sensitive” material, but they appear to have been isolated after that.

On Workplace, where about 60,000 Facebook employees are active, it’s often a place to “vent” frustration at work. They talk about being dismayed at the belief that they are on the front lines of protecting users from online hate and hurt, or just sharing years of dedicated internal projects that have been banned by management. reason aside.

The social network is currently facing an increasing number of complaints. This could put the company on the brink of danger: possibly under investigation by the US and regulators around the world. Observers say that a controversial company for 17 years like Facebook needs to be regulated to limit divisive and harmful content on the platform.

Some see Haugen’s testimony and the series of documents she shared with reporters and lawmakers as a step toward that goal. “I’m glad this document got to where so many people wanted it. It’s a way of bringing the voices of former employees to Congress and legislators to check disinformation in Facebook’s political ads.” , says Yael Eisenstat, a former Facebook executive.

“The culling of anecdotes from former employees doesn’t tell the story of how change is happening at Facebook. Our team has great experts who make the platform better.” , Joe Osborne, a spokesman for Facebook, said after the report of Washington Post. “Projects always go through rigorous reviews and debates, so there’s no shortage of debate and conflicting opinions.”

Fears that Facebook won’t change were reinforced by Mark Zuckerberg’s reaction to Haugen’s testimony. The head of Facebook has often apologized for the company’s mistakes in the past, but this time took a much tougher stance. He said Haugen created a “false picture of the company” and insisted the company had built an experience that meets the needs of young people while keeping them safe.

Former employees who warned Facebook

Not many people dare to stand up and denounce Facebook as openly and strongly as Haugen, some choose to remain anonymous or share in moderation. The reasons they gave were to avoid retaliation and to respect colleagues who are still working. As for Waismeyer, he described his experience as accurate, but declined to comment further “out of respect for the many great people still fighting the good fight” at Facebook.

When Waismeyer stepped down in March, he was one of the longest-serving researchers in his department. In 3 years working, he has 1 year in charge of a project to help victims with pornography. However, the project was abruptly dropped during restructuring and never deployed again, much to the annoyance of the entire team.

In the Workplace post, he said that people like him face a range of pressures. “Work value is weighed against legal and potential risk, and must be considered for lost profits if users reduce interaction on the platform,” Waismeyer wrote.

One former employee, who asked not to be named, describes how finding and dealing with a serious problem in private groups or containing hateful content repeatedly ran into roadblocks from Facebook itself. “They weren’t interested in what I suggested,” the former employee said. “Each time, they record it but leave it alone and are constantly delayed.”

In November 2020, Lindsay Blackwell, a researcher on equity controls on the Facebook platform, also sent a lengthy resignation letter. Before retiring, she worked in WoW – a project to tweak the hate speech detection algorithm. However, after the team spent more than a year creating solutions to reorient these algorithms, the project was abandoned.

Several other former and Facebook employees say groups like Haugen’s are often restructured several times a year. In the end, most were disbanded, causing dissatisfaction for many people. Most then choose to win the company in silence.

“We joined Facebook because we love the company,” one person said. “We want Facebook to be better, but over time, we find ourselves that the leaders are very indifferent, or ignorant. Sometimes, they don’t prioritize work.”

Bao Lam (follow Washington Post)


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