Facebook told employees on Tuesday that it is closing some of its internal online discussion groups to minimize leaks.
Many Facebook employees join online discussion groups at Workplace, an internal message board that employees use to communicate and collaborate with each other. In an announcement on Tuesday, the company said it is making certain groups focused on platform security and election protection, an area commonly known as “integrity,” private rather than public within the company, limiting who can view and participate in discussions.
The move follows the disclosure of thousands of pages of internal documents by former employee Frances Haugen to regulators, legislators and the media. The documents showed that Facebook was aware of some of the harm it caused. Ms Haugen, a former member of Facebook’s civil disinformation group, filed a whistleblower complaint with the Securities and Exchange Commission this month and testified before a Senate subcommittee.
“As everyone probably knows, we have seen an increase in integrity-related leaks in recent months,” the CTO wrote in an ad that was reviewed by The New York Times. “These leaks do not reflect the nuances and complexities of our work, and are often taken out of context, leading to a misjudgment of our work from the outside.”
Facebook was known for its open culture that encouraged discussion and transparency, but it became more introverted as it faced leaks about issues like venomous speech and misinformation and battled employee unrest. In July, the public relations team closed comments on an internal forum used for company-wide announcements, stating “OUR ONE INQUIRY: PLEASE DO NOT LEAK.”
“Leaks make it difficult for our teams to work together, can expose employees working on sensitive topics to external risk, and lead to distortion and misunderstanding of complex topics,” Facebook spokesman Andy Stone said in a statement. Mr Stone also said that Facebook has been planning changes within a few months.
An announcement on Tuesday said Facebook plans to comb through some of the online discussion groups to remove people whose jobs are not related to security. The changes will take place in the “coming months” and “with the expectation that in the future, confidential discussions on integrity issues will take place in closed, carefully selected forums.”
In internal comments shared with The Times, some employees supported the move, while others condemned the loss of transparency and collaboration. They called the change “counterproductive” and “discouraging,” and one person suggested that it could lead to more information leaks from disgruntled employees.
“I think everyone in the company needs to think and work on integrity as part of their day-to-day role, and we need to work to shape the culture in which that is expected,” wrote one Facebook employee. “Giving up people dedicated to integrity will harm both active collaborative efforts and diminish the cultural expectation that honesty is everyone’s responsibility.”
Mike Isaac made reporting.