In September 2020, the data analyst Sophie Zhang she was being fired by Facebook. A few hours later, Zhang (who was also in charge of identifying the fraudulent activities that take place on the social network) published a long internal document full of accusations towards the platform: in the text, later published by BuzzFeed, Zhang blamed Facebook ignoring, or being guilty slow, in reacting to the bogus accounts and bot armies used by various organizations and institutions in an attempt to influence elections. And not only.
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From Honduras to Azerbaijan, where they would have been directly heads of government and party leaders to use bogus accounts to mislead public opinion, up to the most complex cases of India, Ukraine, Spain, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador and others, Zhang spoke of real disinformation campaigns also organized at the government level. The case of Azerbaijan is emblematic: in an investigation published in April in the Guardian (again thanks to his revelations) was shown as almost all of the comments present on Facebook in defense of the authoritarian Azerbaijani government were linked to fake accounts.
Such a blatant fraudulent activity could have easily been identified (as Zhang actually did) and eradicated from the social network, which however would have preferred to ignore the problems. Very serious allegations, according to which the social network he would have acted slowly and negligently in all cases where he felt he was not risking a wide media coverage. Accusations that Facebook has always rejected.
In an interview granted to the Whistleblower Network, Zhang explained that this attitude would not be limited to the story that saw her as the protagonist: “I think the site behaves in a very foolish way and contrary to its own interests, and that in general it is not able to anticipate crises. The work that was done in relation to fraudulent activities was always in reaction to reports coming from outside or to third party complaints “.
In short, the accusation is that Facebook is unwilling (or unable to) counter activities that exploit the platform for illegal or unethical purposes, unless they become public knowledge: “If it ever was known that we have not done anything for over a year (to combat bogus governmental accounts, ed. ) we would have given a horrible impression – added Zhang – Obviously, even if we didn’t know at the time, in the end I was the source of the leak, so it was a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy “.
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But why would Facebook be so unwilling to act promptly when faced with such problems? According to Zhang, a crucial aspect is that of conflict of interest in which some executives are located: “The people who are in charge of making important decisions about what should be deleted or the content to be acted upon are the same people who have the task of getting along with everyone and maintaining good relationships with people important “. According to Zhang, therefore, i executives dealing with dealing with fraudulent activity they are the same ones who must maintain friendly relations with governments and companies, obviously finding themselves in a questionable situation.
All time to hear Zhang, however, there would also be some good in the Zuckerberg giant, which would be very well disposed towards the dissent expressed by employees: “It is a very transparent company, in the sense that employees are encouraged to disagree openly”. So why were Zhang’s complaints not heard and actually led to his dismissal? To this question, the former employee answered in a previous interview granted to the Associated Press: “Despite the media coverage of my surveys, I was a low-ranking employee. Furthermore, the work I did (against fraudulent activities, ed) was not the official one and I did it in my spare time, obviously with the approval of the management. In the beginning, the company supported me, but with the passage of time they lost patience because I had a lower performance than expected “.
Furthermore, the situation was increasingly conflicting, as “I had to search desperately someone who cared about what I was discovering: Talking to my superiors and their superiors, talking to the intelligence team, talking to other groups that deal with the integrity of the platform. It took almost a year for something to happen “.
Probably, the question to ask is this: how can Facebook solve the many problems who have been gripping him for years, if he dismisses and fires the employees who really want to take care of him?