Facebook Doesn't Care About Manipulating Political Opinion Around The World, Ex-Data Scientist Claims

Earlier this month, a data scientist - Sophia Zhang was fired by Facebook as the social media giant got concerned about their employee (now ex) focusing on roles that were beyond her job description. But this move might hurt the company soon as Zhang has come out with a 6,600 words memo on her final day that sheds light on how Facebook ignored her complaints about the platform being used to manipulate the election results around the world.

Mentioned in the copy of the memo which was first received by Buzzfeed News, Zhang has stated that when she told the upper management about how the platform was getting used as a tool to sway public opinion, she got fired.

Prior to this issue, Facebook hired Zhang to analyze and identify any coordinated inauthentic behavior on the platform, along with keeping an eye on the bot networks - which were now being used to influence the outcome of elections or promoting various political candidates and controversial topics. Furthermore, in the memo she also told about turning down a $64K severance package in which she was supposed to sign a non-disparagement paper that meant she wouldn’t have then been allowed to speak publicly about the company.

Zhang went on to reveal that during the three years that she spent inside the Facebook’s headquarters, she caught many attempts made by foreign national governments to take wrongful advantage of the platform to fool their citizens. As Zhang has been a part of the Facebook’s Site Integrity fake engagement team, she knows that by now she has blood on her own hands as well.

Continuing with her claim in the memo, Zhang said that Facebook always pays attention to only bigger issues that are happening in the US or Europe and therefore small outright political manipulation like the one which happened in India or Ukraine doesn’t matter to the company much or they don’t even give directions to the employees about it.

Facebook also gives so much power to midlevel employees, like her, despite knowing that they are data science experts and can play with the activities of high-profile users like world leaders or celebs etc. She even accepted that she has made some decisions in her tenure that definitely affected national presidents without them having any idea about her involvement.

In the end, the memo does say that Facebook does not play any intentional role in the manipulation but they just don’t pay the right attention or allocate the best resources to solve the problem. The company would only make amendments as their short term goal if newspapers like The New York Times or The Washington Post start talking about it and we would see Facebook’s managment taking quick action against the issue even if the manipulation occurs in India.

With that being said, she also came to the conclusion how her civic work was also not very impactful because if that had been the case and more press talked about it, Facebook by now would have been doing something in that space as well.

No one from Facebook has responded to the claims as of yet.


Photo: NurPhoto via Getty Images

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