Facebook reportedly told Republicans whistleblower was 'trying to help Democrats'

Frances Haugen
Frances Haugen Theo Wargo/Getty Images for TIME

In the wake of a whistleblower coming forward with allegations against the company, Facebook made an effort to "muddy the waters" in Congress and "divide lawmakers," according to a new report in The Wall Street Journal.

The report details Facebook's response to a whistleblower, former employee Frances Haugen, who came forward in October to allege the company prioritizes profits over user safety. Among the claims included in a series of reports based on the documents Haugen provided was the allegation that Facebook, which has since been renamed Meta, is aware that Instagram is "toxic" for many young users.

After Haugen's claims emerged, Facebook's Washington team alleged to Republican lawmakers and advocacy groups that Haugen "was trying to help Democrats," while the company's lobbyists told Democratic staffers that Republicans "were focused on the company's decision to ban expressions of support for Kyle Rittenhouse," The Wall Street Journal reports. The company's goal, the Journal writes, was to "muddy the waters, divide lawmakers along partisan lines and forestall a cross-party alliance" against Facebook in Congress.

Facebook received scrutiny from Republican and Democratic lawmakers after the whistleblower revelations emerged, with multiple hearings since being held on Capitol Hill. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), for example, alleged the whistleblower documents showed Facebook "knew" its platform "promotes extremism and hurts our communities." A recent congressional hearing in December, though, suggested Haugen's "credibility with Republican lawmakers may be starting to wear thin," Politico wrote.

The Journal also reports that Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg "has told employees not to apologize" amid the scrutiny, as well as that officials at Meta have considered hiring a "high-ranking outsider" in an attempt to take "pressure" off both Zuckerberg and Meta Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg. A spokesperson told the Journal, "When our work is being mischaracterized, we're not going to apologize. We're going to defend our record." Read more at The Wall Street Journal.

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