Facebook fires back at damning Wall Street Journal reports that found the company to be ‘riddled with flaws’

A person looks at. a smart phone with a Facebook logo displayed in the background
  • The Wall Street Journal published a series of reports finding Facebook to be “riddled with flaws.”
  • The series found the company turns a blind eye to its impact on everything from young girls using Instagram to human trafficking.
  • Facebook just issued a statement calling the series full of “deliberate mischaracterizations.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Facebook fired back at the Wall Street Journal following the newspaper’s multi-part series that outlined employee concerns about a litany of issues at the social media giant, from the trafficking of humans through the site to turning a blind-eye to the mental health of teenagers.

“The Facebook Files,” published last week, found Facebook employees know the social media giant is “riddled with flaws.”

On Saturday, Facebook responded by slamming the series as full of “deliberate mischaracterizations” in a statement penned by Nick Clegg, the company’s vice president of global affairs.

“At the heart of this series is an allegation that is just plain false: that Facebook conducts research and then systematically and willfully ignores it if the findings are inconvenient for the company,” Clegg wrote.

The Journal reviewed internal company research reports, online employee discussions, and drafts of presentations made to management to reveal the platform ignored its impact on young women, maintained a system that protects elite users from being reprimanded for breaking content rules, and more. The investigation found a number of damning instances where researchers identified and escalated information about the negative effects of the platform where the company did not immediately react.

The report also revealed that Facebook spent 2.8 million hours, or approximately 319 years, looking for false or misleading information on its platforms in the US in 2020. Some content that was missed related to the promotion of gang violence, human trafficking, and drug cartels, the Journal said.

In one instance, Apple threatened to kick Facebook off its App Store following an October 2019 BBC report that detailed human traffickers were using the platform to sell victims. The new Journal investigation found that Facebook knew about the trafficking concerns prior to receiving pressure from Apple, with one researcher writing an internal memo stating that a team looked into “how domestic servitude manifests on our platform across its entire life cycle: recruitment, facilitation, and exploitation” throughout 2018 and the first half of 2019.

“With any research, there will be ideas for improvement that are effective to pursue and ideas where the tradeoffs against other important considerations are worse than the proposed fix,” Clegg wrote. “What would be really worrisome is if Facebook didn’t do this sort of research in the first place.”

Clegg concluded that the company “understands the significant responsibility” that comes with operating a platform that half of the people on the planet use.

He said Facebook takes that responsibility seriously, “but we fundamentally reject this mischaracterization of our work and impugning of the company’s motives.”