Wall Street Journal reporter Jeff Horwitz had no idea that one of his sources at Facebook would open a vault that would expose so much fuckery within the company—how it drags its feet about human trafficking cases on the platform, how an “elite” group of people who abuse the system are exempt from the rules, and how Facebook knows Instagram is toxic for teen girls and doesn’t seem to care. But that’s exactly what happened.
Horwitz tells Molly Jong-Fast in this episode of The New Abnormal that he reached out to employee Frances Haugen and with her help, the story just took off from there.
Did you know you can listen to The New Abnormal bonus episodes in your member dashboard or a podcast app? Click here to get set up and sign up for new episode email alerts here.
“She had experience in tech before this and is just also an extremely smart person who’s got some pretty strong analytical capabilities, but it wasn’t clear, like, ‘Hey Jeff, like, I’m about to raid the vault—who wants some?” he explains. “There was no sense that [some] sort of massive document offload was on the horizon.”
He says Haugen was apprehensive at first, but realized that she could take a sort of “advocacy route” with it. That’s not to say her decision to come forward was easy.
“She was kind of unable to be honest with the people she was around about exactly what she was doing and she had colleagues. And she liked those colleagues,” he says. “It’s just not a fun situation. So I think there was a lot of dissonance there and that was hard for her.”
Producer Jesse Cannon then wants to know: Will Facebook do anything? Horwitz’s guess: Not likely.
“Unless Apple is going to kick them out of the app store, they’re not really going to act on human trafficking in a serious fashion. And then once that crisis has passed and they have acted on it and taken down a hundred-thousand pages that are, like, literally involved in the sale of people, they kind of just let things go back to where they were,” he says.
Plus, he weighs in on the lack of anti-vaccine monitoring on the platform, which blows his mind, mainly because Zuckerberg is personally very pro-vaccine and his wife is a doctor.
“When the anti-COVID vax efforts like truly, truly started getting traction early this year, they were pretty flat-footed about it. Like they were using classifiers that had been built that are basically AI enforcement algorithms that had been built two years prior for other vaccine stuff,” he says.
So where’s the blame to go? For Horwitz, all eyes point to Mark.
“Everything kind of trails back to him. It doesn't even mean that he knows everything that's going on,” says Horwitz. “But everything seems to lead back to his approach.”
Listen to The New Abnormal on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon and Stitcher.