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After the Facebook whistleblower came forward, the company reportedly tried to discredit her reputation among politicians

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before a joint hearing of the Commerce and Judiciary Committees on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., on Tuesday, April 10, 2018.


  • In October, a former Facebook employee leaked a trove of documents detailing potential issues at the company.
  • Facebook lobbyists attempted to smear her reputation among politicians in Washington, the Wall Street Journal reports. 
  • Those efforts appear to have been at least partially effective.

In October, former Facebook employee-turned-whistleblower Frances Haugen shared documents that revealed several potential issues at the social media giant.

Facebook’s own research showed that Instagram is bad for teen mental health. Other documents showed the company prioritized parts of the world differently for content moderation, which sometimes had major consequences. For example, in Myanmar, where Facebook was blamed in part for not moderating hate speech, posts led to real-world violence against the Muslim Rohingya population in 2018.

After Haugen appeared on CBS’ “60 Minutes” in early October, Facebook went on the offensive against its former employee, The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.

Facebook’s Washington-based lobbyists and public relations staff are said to have spread the word among Republican lawmakers, advocacy groups, and Conservative media that Haugen had “partisan motives,” the paper said. 

Moreover, Facebook lobbyists reportedly attempted to sow discord between Democrat and Republican lawmakers by feeding each party different stories in response to Haugen’s leak, the paper said. 

To Republicans, the WSJ reported, Haugen was “trying to help Democrats” — evidenced by her PR firm being run by former President Obama staffers. To Democrats, Republicans were reportedly fixated on Facebook’s decision to ban support for Kyle Rittenhouse (a move it has since reversed).

Instead of dividing lawmakers, Haugen was invited to testify in front of Congress, and a bipartisan selection of lawmakers are working on legislation intended to more heavily regulate social media companies.

Facebook is among the highest spenders on corporate lobbying in America, beating out Exxon-Mobil, Comcast, and Amazon for the number one spot in 2020, according to a report published by Public Citizen. The social media giant is said to have spent just shy of $20 million in 2020.

The company has rebuffed many reports based on the Facebook Papers leak, saying the individual research reports and conversations in the documents do not reflect the whole of its efforts to combat hate speech and other harmful effects of its platforms. 

“When our work is being mischaracterized, we’re not going to apologize,” spokesman Andy Stone told the Wall Street Journal. “We’re going to defend our record.”

Representatives for Facebook, which is owned by parent company Meta, did not immediately respond to a request for comment 

Got a tip? Contact Insider senior correspondent Ben Gilbert via email ([email protected]), or Twitter DM (@realbengilbert). We can keep sources anonymous. Use a non-work device to reach out. PR pitches by email only, please.

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