The whistleblower, a former employee whose identity has not been publicly disclosed, is expected to air the new accusations Sunday in an interview on “60 Minutes,“ according to the memo, which was obtained by the Times.
The employee has complained in the past that Facebook was aware of the harms it could be causing in several areas.
But the former staff member is now expected to accuse the company of relaxing its security safeguards for the 2020 election too soon after the presidential election, allowing the platform to be used to help fuel the storming of the Capitol, the Times reported. Facebook managers reportedly believe the former employee will also accuse the company of contributing to the political polarization of the nation.
The 1,500-word memo defending the company, written by Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice president of policy and global affairs, was sent on Friday to staff in an attempt to “pre-empt the whistleblower’s interview,” the Times reported.
“Social media has had a big impact on society in recent years, and Facebook is often a place where much of this debate plays out,” he wrote. “But what evidence there is simply does not support the idea that Facebook, or social media more generally, is the primary cause of polarization.”
Clegg noted that the “increase in political polarization in the U.S. pre-dates social media by several decades.”
He also denied that a change in Facebooks Newsfeed ranking algorithm elevated “polarizing content” and said hate speech on the platform has been significantly reduced. Clegg listed several measures taken to crack down on false and inflammatory content.
“We’ve been more aggressive than any other internet company in combating harmful content, including content that sought to delegitimize the election,” he wrote. But Clegg warned: “This work will never be complete. There will always be new threats and new problems to address.”
The whistleblower has shared thousands of pages of Facebook documents with lawmakers and The Wall Street Journal for a series of stories called “The Facebook Files.” The documents reportedly revealed that Facebook knew how its apps and services could cause harm, for example, by exacerbating teenage Instagram users’ body image issues.
Clegg and “Strategic Response” teams at Facebook have called several emergency meetings in a bid to mitigate some of the fallout, the Times reported.