Facebook ex-employee issues memo on company's failure to monitor global political manipulation

A recently fired Facebook employee has issued an internal memo, blaming Facebook for slow action against misleading accounts. BuzzFeed has obtained the 6,600-word memo from the former Facebook data scientist, Sophie Zhang.

The memo names multiple incidents where governments and top political leaders are named for misusing Facebook. Zhang’s memo talks about the use of fake accounts by parties in Azerbaijan and Honduras to earn favorable public opinion.

She also turned down a severance package of $64,000 to avoid signing a non-disparagement agreement. As a result, she was able to internally issue the memo.

Coordinated Campaigns

Facebook ex-exployee issues memo blaming company of delayed action
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Zhang’s memo names India, Ukraine, Spain, and Brazil, Bolivia, and Ecuador as countries where coordinated campaigns were spotted. These campaigns were aimed to either hinder or improve the image of political candidates or outcomes.

She said, “I have personally made decisions that affected national presidents without oversight, and taken action to enforce against so many prominent politicians globally that I’ve lost count.”

Facebook Delayed Response

Zhang stated that she found a series of “inauthentic assets,” which means fake or bot accounts that were utilized by the Azerbaijan ruling party to “harass the opposition en masse.” Facebook started an investigation into the matter a year after Zhang’s initial report.

She also mentions that her team removed over 10.5 million fake reactions and fans from the pages of high-profile politicians during the 2018 elections in Brazil and the US. She spotted similar inauthentic activity in Ukraine as well.

Zhang’s memo also accuses Facebook of prioritizing the US, and Europe, putting the rest of the countries on the back-burner. The delay in damage control from Facebook may have directly resulted in political manipulation in the above-mentioned countries.

Addressing India, her memo talked about her removal of a “politically-sophisticated network” of more than a thousand actors, trying to influence the Delhi elections in February.

The Social Network

In the recent past, Facebook has seen several employees leave the company over policy-based issues. While Sophie Zhang was fired, her memo also points a finger at Facebook’s policy on hate-speech and fact-checking.

The platform, which was once a place to stay in touch with your loved ones, has slowly morphed into machinery enabling political manipulation. Recently, an engineer quit Facebook stating that the company was “profiting off hate.” It has faced allegations of allowing hate-speech on its platform. The company dealt with that by issuing a statement saying that it’s unbiased.

Manik Berry
Manik is fascinated by smartphones and ecosystems. He also likes a strong coffee after a long bike ride.