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Technology

Ex-employee slams Facebook for failing to control global political manipulation

  • Former Facebook data scientist Sophie Zhang in an over 6,600 words memo pointed to activity across the world.
15 Sep 2020

The world’s largest social media platform Facebook is in news for all the wrong reasons again, after an ex-employee alleged that the platform was slow to curb fake news pertaining to governments and politicians around the world.

Former Facebook data scientist Sophie Zhang in an over 6,600 words memo pointed to activity across the world in nations such as Azerbaijan, Honduras, India, Ukraine, Spain, Bolivia, and Ecuador, reported BuzzFeed.

"Individually, the impact was likely small in each [country's] case, but the world is a vast place," Zhang wrote in her memo. "Although I made the best decision I could based on the knowledge available at the time, ultimately I was the one who made the decision not to push more or prioritize further in each case, and I know that I have blood on my hands by now."

Zhang who reportedly got fired earlier in September said that the issue was due to the company’s focus on large-scale problems.

“It’s an open secret within the civic integrity space that Facebook’s short-term decisions are largely motivated by PR and the potential for negative attention… It’s why I’ve seen priorities of escalations shoot up when others start threatening to go to the press, and why I was informed by a leader in my organization that my civic work was not impactful under the rationale that if the problems were meaningful they would have attracted attention, became a press fire, and convinced the company to devote more attention to space,” read the memo.

“Overall, the focus of my organization – and most of Facebook – was on large-scale problems, an approach which fixated us on spam. The civic aspect was discounted because of its small volume, its disproportionate impact ignored,” she added.

Among a list of allegations leveled by Zhang include that claims reportedly made by Zhang include her of coordinated manipulation campaigns in Azerbaijan which was not investigated for a year afterward, a major political influence campaign in Delhi, India this February was never reported among others.