On Friday, an unnamed Facebook whistleblower argued that the social networking giant routinely turned a blind eye to hate speech and misinformation on the platform over fears it would hinder the company’s growth.
Facebook employees have repeatedly tried to suppress right-wing news outlets despite warnings it could cause a “political backlash”, according to TheWall Street Journal (WSJ).
The newspaper reported on Sunday that the crackdown focused on Breitbart amid protests following the death of African American man George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer in May 2020.
The WSJ claimed that in June 2020, a Facebook employee posted a message on the company’s racial-justice chat board: “Get Breitbart out of News Tab”, a feature that aggregates and promotes articles from various publishers, picked by the platform.
The message reportedly included screenshots of headlines published on Breitbart’s website at the time, including “Minneapolis Mayhem: Riots in Masks”, “Massive Looting, Buildings in Flames, Bonfires!”, and “BLM [Black Lives Matter] Protesters Pummel Police Cars on 101″.
The newspaper cited the employee as saying that the headlines were “emblematic of a concerted effort at Breitbart and similarly hyperpartisan sources (none of which belong in News Tab) to paint Black Americans and Black-led movements in a very negative way”.
On the other hand, a Facebook researcher warned in the same chat that any steps to remove Breitbart from the News Tab might lead to a situation where “at best, it would be a very difficult policy discussion”.
The WSJ report came as Facebook VP of Global Affairs Nick Clegg warned employees that they may need to brace “for more bad headlines in the coming days”.
He suggested that upcoming coverage in the US mainstream media would likely “contain mischaracterizations of our [Facebook’s] research, our motives, and where our priorities lie”.
The warning followed a new Facebook whistleblower testifying before Congress that the company had consistently ignored hate speech, misinformation, and illicit behavior on the platform in an effort to maximize profits.
The whistleblower, whose named was not released, asserted that company communications official Tucker Bounds dismissed hate speech as a “flash in the pan”, adding that although “some legislators will get pissy”, Facebook is “printing money in the basement”.
Earlier this month, another Facebook whistleblower, Frances Haugen, claimed in congressional testimony that even though the firm was in the know that the platform had inflicted harm on the mental health of teenagers, it didn’t do much to prevent content promoting “hate and division”.
Haugen added that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg should be held accountable because “he holds more than 55 percent of all the voting shares for Facebook”.
The social network insisted Haugen’s accusations “don’t make sense”, with Zuckerberg stressing the company cares “deeply” about users’ safety-related issues.