November 28, 2021

At the heart of Facebook, depression and frustration in the teams responsible for making the site “healthier”

By Florian Reynaud

Posted today at 1:00 p.m., updated at 5:37 p.m.

“It is not normal that a large number of people (…) leave saying FYI, we are actively making the world worse”. » This comment, published at the end of 2020 on Workplace, the internal discussion tool Facebook employees, resonates with many similar testimonials. “In recent weeks, we have seen a number of departures of senior people in Integrity teams [un département chargé de superviser et de penser la modération au sein du réseau social] (…), all expressed specific criticisms on the limits of the impact of the work of these teams within Facebook ”, wrote, at the end of 2020, an employee whose name was anonymized.

Ask your questions : Has Facebook definitely escaped its creators?
Extract from one of the anonymized documents sent to the US Congress, and from a message posted on the internal employee discussion forum.

This post comes from internal Facebook documents collected by Frances Haugen, a former employee, and transmitted by a US parliamentary source to several media, including The world. The whistleblower, the latest in a long list of former employees of the social network who publicly spoke out against their ex-company, worked within the Civic Integrity team, which brought together 300 employees around the fight against disinformation, hateful content, political manipulation as well as election protection. Civic Integrity was dismantled in December 2020.

The “Facebook Files”, a dive into the workings of the “likes” machine

The “Facebook Files” are several hundred internal Facebook documents copied by Frances Haugen, a specialist in algorithms, when she was an employee of the social network. They were provided to the US regulator and Congress, then transmitted by a US parliamentary source to several media, redacted from the personal information of Facebook employees. In Europe, these media are, besides The world, the German daily Southgerman newspaper, the WDR and NDR television channels, the Tamedia Group, Knack, Berlingske and OCCRP.

They show that Facebook is devoting more resources to limiting its damaging effects in the West, to the detriment of the rest of the world. They attest that these effects are known internally but the warning signals are not always taken into account. Finally, they prove that Facebook’s algorithms have become so complex that they sometimes seem to escape their own authors.

Business Integrity, Pages Integrity… Gathered under the “Integrity” banner, these units have for mission to find ways to fight against the harmful uses of Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and to moderate as effectively as possible the platforms of the American juggernaut. . Some of them have been, since the end of 2020, grouped together in a new entity called “Central Integrity”, headed by the vice-president of Facebook, Guy Rosen.

Documents consulted by The world highlight the harsh criticisms formulated by members of these teams vis-à-vis the operation of the company and the limits to their field of action. “I don’t think I can stay in good conscience: I think Facebook probably has a negative influence on politics in Western countries; I do not think that the management is in a good faith work to solve this problem ”, wrote in particular, in December 2020, a departing employee.

Asked by The world and three other European media (Knack, Berlingske and Tamedia), the company declined to specifically answer certain questions about criticism voiced by former employees. Facebook has highlighted its investments in the security and moderation of its platform. “I am proud of the immense progress we have made. This progress is in large part due to the dedication of the team. [Integrity] to continuously understand the difficulties, identify the shortcomings and apply solutions ”Guy Rosen said in a statement.

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