Tech

Ex-Facebook Employee Reveals How Tech Giant Undermined Elections around World ⋆

A recent former Facebook employee sent a 6,600 word internal memo to her fellow workers accusing their employer of undermining elections and democracies around the globe.

In the memo, the disgruntled employee, data analyst Sophie Zhang said she has made decisions that have affected national leaders of dozens of countries without oversight during her time as an employee of Facebook.

Zhang said she feels like she has blood on her hands whenever she sees unrests, protests and riots in various countries which she blames of misinformation from fake Facebook accounts.

Excerpts from her memo read;

“In the three years I’ve spent at Facebook, I’ve found multiple blatant attempts by foreign national governments to abuse our platform on vast scales to mislead their own citizenry, and caused international news on multiple occasions.

“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.”

Citing several examples, she accused Facebook of deliberately taking time to react to reports of fake accounts being used to support President Orlando Hernandez of Honduras as well as the ruling political party in Azerbaijan which has been accused of suppressing the opposition with state sponsored violence.

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Zhang also said she removed at least 10.5 million fake accounts targeting high profile politicians involved in elections in Brazil and the United States in 2018 as well as 672,000 accounts spreading fake news about the coronavirus. She also removed 1,000 fake accounts for influencing local elections in Delhi, India.

She however detailed some other instances where the tech giant failed to take action saying, “Facebook projects an image of strength and competence to the outside world… but the reality is that many of our actions are slapdash and haphazard accidents.”

Citing more examples Zhang said, Bot accounts discovered in Bolivia and Ecuador were not attended to due to the volume of workload. She complained that the heavy weight of decision making for so many countries has taken a huge toll on her health and she feels guilty for not attending to more countries.

She said the fact she had to make countless decisions about many different countries took a toll on her health and left her feeling responsible when civil unrest took place in locations that she had not prioritized for action. She said the millions of fake bot accounts that she did not attend to have contributed to unrests and compromise of elections around the world.

Responding to her allegations however, Facebook released a statement saying it is addressing the issue of fake accounts with specialised teams.

According to the tech giant, “we’ve built specialised teams, working with leading experts, to stop bad actors from abusing our systems, resulting in the removal of more than 100 networks for coordinated inauthentic behaviour.

It’s highly involved work that these teams do as their full-time remit. Working against coordinated inauthentic behaviour is our priority, but we’re also addressing the problems of spam and fake engagement. We investigate each issue carefully, including those that Ms Zhang raises, before we take action or go out and make claims publicly as a company.”

According to a report by Buzzfeed, Ms Zhang had turned down a $64,000 severance package from Facebook on the condition that she did not release the said memo to staff.

Her accusations have come barely a week after another disgruntled Facebook engineer, Ashok Chandwaney accused the tech giant of making its massive profit from the propagation of hate.

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