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Inside the Facebook Files

Today, we’re bringing you another episode of Arbiters of Truth, our series on the online information ecosystem. We’ll be talking about “The Facebook Files”—a series of stories by the Wall Street Journal about Facebook’s failures to mitigate harms on its platform. There’s a lot of critical reporting about Facebook out there, but what makes the Journal’s series different is that it’s based on documents from within the company itself—memos from Facebook researchers, identifying problems based on hard data, proposing solutions that Facebook leadership then fails or refuses to implement and contradicts in public statements. One memo literally says, “We are not actually doing what we say we do publicly.”

To discuss the Journal’s reporting, Evelyn Douek and Quinta Jurecic spoke with Jeff Horwitz, a technology reporter at the paper who obtained the leaked documents and led the team reporting the Facebook Files. What was it like working on the series? What's his response to Facebook's pushback? And why is there so much discontent within the company?

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10/14/2021

Finstas, Falsehoods and the First Amendment

Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen’s recent testimony before Congress has set in motion a renewed cycle of outrage over the company’s practices—and a renewed round of discussion around what, if anything, Congress should do to rein Facebook in. But how workable are these proposals, really?This week on Arbiters of Truth, our series on the online information ecosystem, Evelyn Douek and Quinta Jurecic spoke with Jeff Kosseff, an associate professor of cybersecurity law at the United States Naval Academy, and the guy that has literally written not just the book on this, but two of them. He is the author of “The Twenty-Six Words That Created the Internet,” a book about Section 230, and he has another book coming out next year about First Amendment protections for anonymous speech, titled “The United States of Anonymous.” So Jeff isvery well positioned to evaluate recent suggestions that Facebook should, for example, limit the ability of young people to create what users call Finstas, a second, secret Instagram account for a close circle of friends—or Haugen’s suggestion that the government should regulate how Facebook amplifies certain content through its algorithms. Jeff discussed the importance of online anonymity, the danger of skipping past the First Amendment when proposing tech reforms, and why he thinks that Section 230 reform has become unavoidable … even if that reform might not make any legal or policy sense.