‘Facebook Papers’ up the stakes

Several news outlets published stories Monday based on thousands of internal Facebook documents from whistleblower Frances Haugen, ratcheting up the pressure on a company already besieged by weeks of high-profile criticism.

Together the reports paint a picture of a company that prioritizes profits to the point of ignoring clear internal warning signs, dismisses concerns outside of the United States and is desperate to cling onto an aging user base.

“One of the most important themes that runs through all of these revelations is that Facebook was very much aware of all of its vulnerabilities and shortcomings, had internal research to explain these problems and in case after case top management chose to protect engagement and growth over safety concerns,” Paul Barrett, deputy director of the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights, told The Hill.

Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone pushed back on the central arguments in Monday’s reporting in a statement touting investment in cleaning up the platform.

“At the heart of these stories is a premise which is false,” he said. “Yes, we’re a business and we make profit, but the idea that we do so at the expense of people’s safety or wellbeing misunderstands where our own commercial interests lie. The truth is we’ve invested $13 billion and have over 40,000 people to do one job: keep people safe on Facebook.”

After weeks of negative press for Facebook kicked off by The Wall Street Journal’s initial series on Haugen’s documents and capped by the dozens of stories released Monday, attention will now turn to Washington.

Lawmakers were fired up after Haugen’s appearance before the Senate, but the path forward for policy ramifications remains unclear.