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Facebook employees told to preserve documents amid scrutiny

John Harney, Bloomberg News on

Published in News & Features

Facebook Inc. has told employees to preserve company documents as the social media giant disclosed it’s coming under scrutiny over allegations that it misled investors and consumers about harms and declining users on its platform.

Testimony and a trove of internal records provided by Frances Haugen, a former Facebook product manager turned whistle-blower, as well as a series of news reports based on her information, has also intensified the clamor among Democratic and Republican lawmakers to curb the power of technology platforms.

In a 10-Q form submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission this week, Facebook acknowledged that “from time to time, we are also subject to other government inquiries and investigations relating to our business activities and disclosure practices.

“For example, beginning in September 2021, we became subject to government investigations and requests relating to a former employee’s allegations and release of internal company documents concerning, among other things, our algorithms, advertising and user metrics, and content enforcement practices, as well as misinformation and other undesirable activity on our platform, and user well-being,” the company told the SEC in the filing.

Joel Osborne, a company spokesman, said that “Facebook sent a legal hold notice to all personnel,” in a statement to Bloomberg on Wednesday. “Document preservation requests are part of the process of responding to legal inquiries.”

Facebook’s request to employees to preserve documents in an internal memo Tuesday was reported earlier by the New York Times.

 

Haugen, who has testified before Congress and appeared at a parliamentary hearing in London this week, opened a window into the practices of a company that, since its founding in 2004, has become omnipresent in the lives of hundreds of millions of people around the world. She said that the company has put profits over user safety and security.

Her disclosures show, for instance, that some Facebook employees expressed alarm during the U.S. Capitol riot on Jan. 6 that the company had not done enough to act against groups spreading the lie that then-President Donald Trump had won the 2020 election.

On Monday, Facebook’s Chief Executive Officer, Mark Zuckerberg presented a brighter portrait of the social network, telling investors about new efforts to attract young users and build immersive digital experiences.

He said the press coverage regarding Haugen’s disclosures was part of a “coordinated effort” to paint a negative and unbalanced picture of Facebook’s efforts to moderate its platform, which he called better than that of rivals.

“Any honest account should be clear that these issues are not primarily about social media,” he said. “That means that no matter what Facebook does, we’re never going to solve them on our own.”

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