"In the three years I've spent at Facebook, I've found multiple blatant attempts by foreign national governments to abuse our platform on vast scales to mislead their own citizenry", Sophie Zhang, a former Facebook data scientist said in the memo, as reported by BuzzFeed.
The 6,600-word memo was written by Sophie Zhang, a data scientist whose job at the company was to identify fake accounts attempting to manipulate political outcomes.
In response to the memo, Facebook said it has been stepping up its efforts to stop disinformation and manipulation.
A Facebook spokesperson said in a statement emailed to Gadgets 360 that it invested each issue carefully, including those that were raised by Zhang, before it took action or went out and made claims publicly as a company. Back in 2019, for instance, she found inauthentic activity supporting the opposition presidential candidate in Bolivia but chose not to act on it immediately.
Months later, the resignation of Bolivian President Evo Morales was followed by 'mass protests leading to dozens of deaths, ' she wrote. "It's an open secret within the civic integrity space that Facebook's short-term decisions are largely motivated by PR and the potential for negative attention", Zhang said, adding that she was told directly at a 2020 summit that anything published in The New York Times or Washington Post would be given more importance. It's highly involved work that these teams do as their full-time remit.
She says that a colleague said "that most of the world outside the West was effectively the Wild West with myself as the part-time dictator - he meant the statement as a compliment, but it illustrated the enormous pressures upon me".
'I have personally made decisions that affected national presidents without oversight, and taken action to enforce against so many prominent politicians globally that I've lost count, ' she wrote.
She said, per the outlet, that a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation researcher brought to Facebook's attention evidence of Russian inauthentic activity on a "high-profile USA political figure that we didn't catch".
She wrote: 'I have made countless decisions in this vein - from Iraq to Indonesia, from Italy to El Salvador. Individually, the impact was likely small in each case, but the world is a vast place.
"I have blood on my hands". Instead, she wrote, she faced stonewalling and delays largely from Facebook's policy and legal teams. She also said it took the company nine months to take action on a coordinated inauthentic campaign to influence public opinion and promote Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández. While the statement addressed the issue of coordinated inauthentic behaviour, spam and fake engagement on Facebook, it did not say anything about the company's handling of the same, internally. 'Yet despite the blatantly violating nature of this activity, it took me nearly a year to take down his operation'.
In Azerbaijan, Zhang revealed that the ruling party used inauthentic assets to harass the opposition.
Zhang also wrote that she and her colleagues removed '10.5 million fake reactions and fans from high-profile politicians in Brazil and the U.S. in the 2018 elections'.
She said that the influence campaigns appeared to be targeted at boosting 'major politicians of all persuasions in Brazil, and a number of lower-level politicians in the United States'.
"Facebook projects an image of strength and competence to the outside world", Zhang wrote.
"Replying to BuzzFeed reporter Ryan Mac on Twitter, Facebook's VP of Integrity Guy Rosen said that what the engineer was describing were "'fake likes' - which we routinely remove using automated detection". She said she had "blood on my hands by now", blaming herself at least in part for some of the political strife that erupted in many of these nations.
But Zhang claimed that Facebook seemed to assign fewer resources and a lower priority to disinformation campaigns outside of the USA and Europe, leaving her feeling overwhelmed.