Facebook has told employees to “keep internal documents and communications since 2016” pertaining to its companies as governments and lawmakers have launched investigations into its activities, according to a company email sent Tuesday evening.
The move, known as a “legal grab,” follows intense media, legal and regulatory scrutiny of the social network’s damage. Lawmakers and the public are confused after Frances Haugen, a former Facebook employee turned whistleblower, provided thousands of internal documents to lawmakers and the media revealing how much the company knew about some of its ill-effects, such as spreading falsehoods. information and worsening body image problems in some teens.
Those files, known as the Facebook Papers, were initially published by The Wall Street Journal.
“As you probably know, we are currently the focus of extensive media coverage based on a series of internal documents,” Facebook said in the email to employees, obtained by The New York Times. “As is often the case after this type of reporting, a number of government and legislative investigations have been launched into the company’s activities.”
In the Facebook Papers, business researchers debated how to solve many of the problems that have arisen in some of their products over the years. Over time, Facebook’s core features — such as likes, shares, groups, recommendations — were not only used to expand the business, but were manipulated by some to harm users, it turned out. from the documents. Many Facebook employees struggled to contain the fallout, according to the documents.
Ms. Haugen has filed whistleblower complaints with the Securities and Exchange Commission. She also testified in Congress this month and spoke to British lawmakers on Monday.
A Facebook spokeswoman confirmed that legal custody was sent to employees on Tuesday evening, but declined to comment on the cause of the action. “Requests to keep documents are part of the process of responding to legal questions,” she said.
Facebook has previously issued legal instructions to employees. Last year, after the Federal Trade Commission and prosecutors sued Facebook for illegally crushing its competitors, the company advised employees not to discuss issues related to the lawsuit and demanded that they do so. follow online training courses understand competitive compliance policies.
The company is also involved in an investigation into online advertising price-fixing with Google as part of an antitrust lawsuit against the search giant brought by 10 prosecutors last year.
Facebook has also tried to curb employee leaks. This month, it told employees it would make internal groups that focus on platform and election security private. That would make it harder for them to see discussions on those topics and limit participation.
Understand the Facebook Papers
A tech giant in trouble. The leak of internal documents by a former Facebook employee has provided an intimate look at the secretive social media company’s operations and renewed calls for better rules for the company’s broad reach in the lives of its users.
“These are the actions of a company that is trying to resist scrutiny, not to embrace transparency,” Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat who has led a Senate subcommittee to Facebook, wrote in a letter to Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, on the action .
In Tuesday’s email, Facebook told employees to keep everything since January 1, 2016. It also advised them to keep encrypted messages and noted that they should stay away from ephemeral messages for work purposes until further notice.
There was no “specific action” at this time, the email said, but employees are not allowed to discuss or post about the legal hold anywhere on Workplace, the company’s internal bulletin board.
According to the email, not all aspects of Facebook’s business were bound by the legal hold. The company told employees that documents related exclusively to WhatsApp, the messaging service; Spark AR, the augmented reality studio; and the New Product Experimentation group, an in-house incubator, were excluded from the legal hold.
“You don’t need to keep any documents or communications that are solely about WhatsApp as a business product,” the email reads. “You must keep all WhatsApp messages related to other topics.”