Earlier this week, the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee released reports examining the extent to which Russian-linked actors hijacked Facebook and its subsidiary Instagram to deepen rifts in the American electorate. Then, on Tuesday, the New York Times published a long, investigative piece showing that Facebook had lied about stopping its notorious data-sharing practices that offered sensitive user information to companies that agreed to work with Facebook. This followed a week in which Facebook admitted a “bug” had allowed third-party apps to wrongly access the photos of up to 6.8 million users, including images that people began uploading to the site but didn’t post publicly.
The Times story not only capped off a terrible year of revelations and meltdowns for Facebook. It revealed the only party that has power to influence Zuckerberg and the rest of Facebook management: Facebook employees themselves.
Talented workers are at a premium in Silicon Valley. All the big technology companies bid for the sharpest talent and pay so handsomely that they have made the Bay Area unaffordable and almost unlivable for anyone who does not work full time for them.
And yet, Facebook workers were the sources of the interviews and documents that New York Times reporters used to construct the story of unwarranted and possibly illegal data sharing with the likes of Microsoft, Amazon, Sony, and the Russian search engine Yandex (which has close ties to the Kremlin). So clearly, their consciences are getting to some of them.
Over the past few years, Facebook has actively helped the likes of Modi, who runs a political party that has stoked hatred and tolerated mass violence against Muslims; Rodrigo Duterte, who ran for president of the Philippines promising to unleash deadly vigilante and police violence on citizens; and Donald Trump, who opened his campaign by calling Mexicans rapists and was recorded boasting of committing sexual assault.
I have been asking Facebook employees how they sleep at night knowing how much hatred and violence the company has fostered. Now it seems at least a few can’t sleep well after all and have decided to do something about it. [Continue reading…]