A Facebook former employee, Data Scientist Sophie Zhang sent out a 6,600-word internal memo to her colleagues detailing the scope of work she had done affecting national presidents without her knowledge.
“I have blood on my hands,” she wrote in the memo, which was partially published by Buzzfeed.
The excerpts, which were published without her consent, outlined the job Zhang had done at the tech giant “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,” she added.
Buzzfeed further reports that Zhang turned down a $49,000 severance pay offered by Facebook on condition that she did not share the memo.
Facebook responded saying “We’ve built specialized 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 co-ordinated 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.”
In her memo, Zhang said that Facebook had information about bots being used to boost president Juan Orlando Hernandez of Honduras and failed to take any action until after nine months. She also said that the ruling party in Azerbaijan used thousands of bots to attack the opposition party and that 10.5 million fake reactions and fans were removed from some high-profile politicians in the US and Brazil in the 2018 elections.
Following a tip off from a Nato researcher, Ms Zhang said she removed Russian activity on a high-profile US political figure. During the Covid-19 pandemic, She also found and removed 672,000 fake accounts acting against health ministries across the globe. She also worked to remove a politically sophisticated network of more than 1,000 actors working to influence local elections in Delhi.
“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,” she said.
Zhang said the responsibility of single-handedly making critical decisions about the politics of many different countries took a toll on her health and left her feeling responsible for civil unrest in countries that she did not prioritize.
“The speed and scale of the damage Facebook is doing to democracies around the world is truly terrifying.”Carole Cadwalladr, a UK journalist who exposed the Cambridge Analytica scandal, tweeted.