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New whistleblower reportedly alleges Facebook put profits over combating hate speech, misinformation


Angela Lang/CNET

Another Facebook whistleblower is reportedly speaking out against the social network. In an affidavit filed Friday with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, the unidentified former Facebook employee alleged that Facebook officials “routinely undermined efforts to fight misinformation, hate speech and other problematic content” to avoid angering then-President Donald Trump or potentially dampening user growth, according to the Washington Post

The new complaint accuses Facebook leadership — including CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg — of failing to warn investors about the severity of the social network’s problems, according to the Post, which said it obtained a copy of the affidavit. 

One incident reportedly highlighted in the affidavit involved a Facebook communications official brushing aside criticism from lawmakers following Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. He allegedly said in 2017 that the issue would be a “flash in the pan,” adding that “in a few weeks [legislators] will move onto something else. Meanwhile we are printing money in the basement, and we are fine,” according to the Post. 

Facebook questioned the sourcing of the Washington Post report. “This is beneath the Washington Post, which during the last five years would only report stories after deep reporting with corroborating sources,” said Facebook spokesperson Erin McPike in an emailed statement.

A spokesperson for the SEC said the agency doesn’t comment on the “existence or nonexistence of possible whistleblower submissions.”

The report comes after Frances Haugen, a former Facebook product manager, leaked thousands of internal documents to the Wall Street Journal about the social network and urged US lawmakers to provide more active oversight of the company. She told Congress earlier this month that Facebook’s products “harm children, stoke division and weaken our democracy,” and suggested the company be required to disclose more information. 

Facebook has faced scrutiny for years for its privacy and security practices, notably following the Cambridge Analytica scandal in 2018, when it was revealed that data from millions of Facebook users was reportedly misused for political ads during the 2016 US presidential election.

CNET’s Abrar Al-Heeti contributed to this story.

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