By:
October 25, 2021

It’s social media’s version of the Pentagon Papers — damning internal documents about the damage done by Facebook.

It’s The Facebook Papers.

The internal documents — thousands of them — provided by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen are now in the hands of at least 17 major news outlets. So get ready for a deluge of explosive stories about the social media giant. In fact, the flood has already begun. The first media outlets to get the redacted documents include The Associated Press, The Atlantic, Bloomberg, CNN, NBC, The New York Times and The Washington Post. (Disclosure: Facebook is a funder of the Poynter Institute, PolitiFact and related work, though has no editorial involvement.)

Here are some of the stories we’ve seen so far:

New York Magazine’s Chas Danner has a good roundup with “What Was Leaked in the Facebook Papers? A guide to the biggest revelations so far.”

That’s just the start. Expect a steady stream of even more stories to come out starting today. CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan tweeted Sunday evening, “Happy Facebook News Bonanza Eve, everyone.”

Axios’ Sara Fischer reported Sunday that Facebook vice president of global affairs Nick Clegg told staff in a memo: “We need to steel ourselves for more bad headlines in the coming days, I’m afraid.”

This happens just as Facebook is expected to change its name, in part, many believe, to begin mending its damaged reputation. But that rebranding might not be able to wash off the stench that is already here and could get worse. Its earning reports will come out today.

On Sunday morning’s “Reliable Sources” on CNN, host Brian Stelter said, “While Facebook gets richer, we all get poorer.”

Facebook Oversight Board member and PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel, appearing on “Reliable Sources,” told Stelter, “They’ve got to do more to police hatred, vitriol, bullying on the platform, and we’re seeing that coming out in spades through all of these different revelations.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn) was especially harsh, telling Stelter he doubted Facebook’s claims of wanting government regulation for social media. He said, “What we are hearing from Facebook is platitudes and bromides. When it says it wants regulation, at the same time it is fighting that regulation tooth and nail, day and night, with armies of lawyers, millions of dollars in lobbying. And so, I must say, Facebook saying it wants regulation is the height of disingenuousness.”

Blumenthal, chairman of the subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security, added, “What we are seeing here is a building drumbeat for accountability. A movement for reform that will require disclosure of the powerful algorithms that drive destructive content to children and others, the hate speech in foreign countries, but also the anger and depression that is amplified by those algorithms as it leads children down rabbit holes.”

Blumenthal has said he wants Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg to appear before his committee and “stand up for his responsibility.” Blumenthal said, “Clearly Facebook is unable to police itself, unable to impose self-moderation and that’s why this reform is going to build as a movement.”

Meanwhile, be sure to check out Ben Smith’s latest “Media Equation” column for The New York Times. He goes behind the scenes with Haugen in “Inside the Big Facebook Leak.”

Wallace praises Psaki

White House press secretary Jen Psaki. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Fox News’ Chris Wallace has high praise for White House press secretary Jen Psaki. During an appearance on air Friday after Fox News aired an exchange between Fox News White House reporter Peter Doocy and Psaki, Wallace said, “Honestly, as somebody who’s spent six years in the White House, my immediate reaction was, ‘Those are two people at the top of their game.’ I think that (Doocy) has become the Sam Donaldson of this White House press corps … and Jen Psaki, I think, is one of the best press secretaries ever.”

You read that right: “One of the best press secretaries ever.”

As The Daily Beast’s Corbin Bolies noted, Wallace’s comments riled up some conservatives. Brigitte Gabriel, founder of ACT for America, tweeted out Wallace saying that and added, “TURN OFF FOX NEWS NOW.” Sebastian Gorka, who worked in the Trump White House, tweeted that Wallace was a “clown” for saying that.

Williams moves on to conservative outlet

Here’s news that is shocking to absolutely no one. Allison Williams, the reporter who quit ESPN after 10 years instead of getting the COVID-19 vaccination, has signed on with The Daily Wire — the conservative outlet co-founded by Ben Shapiro. In a statement, Williams said, “The Daily Wire is one of America’s fastest growing media companies and I am thrilled and honored to join them. I am proud to be a part of a company that fights for our rights and I cannot wait to bring agenda-free sports reporting to the Daily Wire’s members and millions of followers,.”

Lots of buzzwords in that statement. Her sports work was barely noticed on the biggest sports network in the country, so we’ll see what kind of impact she has at a place where very few, if any, go for sports.

Williams said she and her husband are trying to have a second child and she didn’t want to get the vaccine because of fertility concerns, even though the CDC specifically says it has found no links between the vaccine, pregnancy and fertility. She also said in a video that she was “so morally and ethically not aligned with” a vaccine mandate.

In an interview with Megyn Kelly last week, Williams said working for ESPN was “the dream” and that she walked away from the “largest contract of my career.”

Fox News’ Neil Cavuto: ‘Please get vaccinated.’

Fox News and Fox Business Network’s Neil Cavuto. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Fox News’ and Fox Business Network’s Neil Cavuto appeared on Howard Kurtz’s Fox News “MediaBuzz” show Sunday morning and urged viewers to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Cavuto joined the show from his home because he was diagnosed with a breakthrough COVID-19 case. Cavuto is immunocompromised because he has multiple sclerosis.

“I feel very strongly, and I know we live in this hyper-politicized age, that people get vaccinated,” Cavuto told Kurtz. “I know, you know, a lot of people say that’s a private decision. I get that. I appreciate that. But I would like to urge people of all sorts, please get vaccinated. … I can tell you right now, those who have been vaccinated are in far better position right now to survive this and even handle cases where they come down with this, precisely because they have been. The numbers prove it.”

He added, “This is not about left or right. This is not about who is conservative or liberal. The last time I checked, everyone, regardless of their political persuasion, is coming down with this. Cases are stabilizing. But we are still losing 3,000 people a day. We’ve lost 5 million globally to this. We’ve lost nearly 800,000 in the U.S. Take political speaking points and toss them. For now. I’m begging you.”

Cavuto has received what Kurtz called “nasty emails” because he has advocated for the vaccine.

“I don’t look at things through a political spectrum, down to all my shows,” Cavuto said. “I have no time for that. Life is too short to be an ass. Life is way too short to be ignorant of the promise of something that is helping people worldwide. Stop the deaths. Stop the suffering. Please, get vaccinated. Please.”

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Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at tjones@poynter.org.

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for Poynter.org. He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
Tom Jones

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