New York (CNN Business)This week the Wall Street Journal released a series of scathing articles about Facebook, citing leaked internal documents that detail in remarkably frank terms how the company is not only well aware of its platforms' negative effects on users but also how it has repeatedly failed to address them.
There's a lot to unpack from the Journal's investigation. But one thing that stands out is just how blatantly Facebook's problems are documented, using the kind of simple, observational prose not often found in internal communications at multinational corporations.
Here are some of the more jaw-dropping moments from the Journal's series.
'We make body issues worse...'
"We make body image issues worse for one in three teen girls," said one slide from 2019, according to the WSJ.
Another reads: "Teens blame Instagram for increases in the rate of anxiety and depression ... This reaction was unprompted and consistent across all groups."
Those slides are particularly notable because Facebook has often referenced external studies, rather than its own researchers' findings, in arguing that there's little correlation between social media use and depression.
'We are not actually doing what we say we do publicly'
"We are not actually doing what we say we do publicly," the review said, according to the paper. "Unlike the rest of our community, these people" — those on the whitelist — "can violate our standards without any consequences."
Facebook spokesman Andy Stone told the Journal that criticism of the practice was fair, but that it "was designed for an important reason: to create an additional step so we can accurately enforce policies on content that could require more understanding."
'Misinformation, toxicity and violent content'
A team of data scientists put it bluntly: "Misinformation, toxicity and violent content are inordinately prevalent among reshares," they said, according to the Journal's report.
"Our approach has had unhealthy side effects on important slices of public content, such as politics and news," the scientists wrote. "This is an increasing liability," one of them wrote in a later memo cited by WSJ.
The following year, the problem persisted. One Facebook data scientist, according to the WSJ, wrote in an internal memo in 2019: "While the FB platform offers people the opportunity to connect, share and engage, an unfortunate side effect is that harmful and misinformative content can go viral, often before we can catch it and mitigate its effects."
Lars Backstrom, a Facebook vice president of engineering, told the Journal in an interview that "like any optimization, there's going to be some ways that it gets exploited or taken advantage of ...That's why we have an integrity team that is trying to track those down and figure out how to mitigate them as efficiently as possible."