In the lead-up to the 2020 U.S. presidential election, Facebook has come under intense scrutiny again for the behavior of foreign actors on its platform. However, according to fired Facebook data scientist Sophie Zhang, that is just the tip of the iceberg. On her way out the door from the social media giant, Zhang dropped a blockbuster report laying out in detail all of Facebook’s failures to stop fake accounts and malicious government actions around the world.
According to Zhang, it’s an “open secret” that Facebook’s decision-making process is guided mostly by PR, and that she had “no oversight whatsoever” as she was left to make decisions that affected thousands of people around the globe. Mostly, she said, Facebook is not the all-powerful monolith many think it is, but instead a company that is often flying by the seat of its pants.
“Facebook projects an image of strength and competence to the outside world that can lend itself to such theories, but the reality is that many of our actions are slapdash and haphazard accidents,” she wrote in her scathing 6,600-word memo. “I know that I have blood on my hands by now.”
This isn’t surprising if you have even a passing familiarity with Facebook’s past mistakes, but it’s still startling to hear one of the company’s former employees speak so bluntly. Here’s hoping her words actually force Facebook to act.
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