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Sophie Zhang: Second Facebook whistleblower reports ‘potential criminal violations’ to authorities

Data scientist says she feels as though she has ‘blood on her hands’ after working for the company

Helen Elfer
Tuesday 12 October 2021 21:45 BST
211012 Second Facebook Whistleblower
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Another Facebook whistleblower has come forward and said she is willing to testify before Congress about the social media giant.

A former data scientist for the company, Sophie Zhang, told CNN she felt like she had “blood on her hands” after working at Facebook and said she had passed on documentation about potential criminal violations to a US law enforcement agency.

Facebook whistleblower Sophie Zhang (CNN)

She did not specify the information or which agency she had been in contact with.

Her statements come in the wake of a damning testimony made by former employee Frances Haugen about Facebook to US senators last week. Ms Haugen accused the company of incentivising profits and growth over the well-being of its users.

Ms Zhang worked as a data scientist at Facebook for almost three years before she was told she was being fired for performance issues.

When she left the company last year she wrote a memo alleging that the company is failing to tackle hate and misinformation, especially in smaller and developing countries.

In the memo, which was published by Buzzfeed last September, she wrote:

“I’ve found multiple blatant attempts by foreign national governments to abuse our platform on vast scales to mislead their own citizenry, and caused international news on multiple occasions. 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.”

Ms Zhang says Facebook doesn’t do enough to tackle abuse of its platform in countries outside of the United States. Around 90% of Facebook’s monthly active users are outside the US and Canada.

A Facebook spokesperson said the company had invested billions in improving security against networks who attempt to misuse the platform. “We have [...]taken down over 150 networks seeking to manipulate public debate since 2017, and they have originated in over 50 countries, with the majority coming from or focused outside of the US. Our track record shows that we crack down on abuse abroad with the same intensity that we apply in the US.”

On Sunday, Ms Zhang tweeted that it was her understanding that the agency she provided information to was continuing to investigate the issue.

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