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What Are the Facebook Papers?

In this Aug. 11, 2019, photo an iPhone displays the apps for Facebook and Messenger in New Orleans.

Social media behemoth Facebook is facing public and regulatory scrutiny after the disclosure of thousands of pages of internal documents by a whistleblower who used to work for the company.

What are the Facebook papers?

After compiling the documents while working as a Facebook product manager, Frances Haugen distributed them to a group of 17 U.S. news organizations that collaborated on a project to individually publish stories on their findings.

The stories, released on a coordinated day in late October, portray Facebook as pursuing audience growth and profits while ignoring how people were using the platform to spread hate and misinformation.

The documents showed Facebook particularly struggled with monitoring for hate speech, inflammatory rhetoric and misinformation by users posting in certain countries, including some that Facebook had determined were at the most risk for real-world consequences of such abuses.

The failures included both inadequate artificial intelligence systems and not enough human moderators who speak the many languages spoken by Facebook users.

Who else received them?

In addition to providing the documents to journalists, Haugen has also made them available to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Congress. Haugen has also appeared before the Senate Commerce Committee and testified before the British Parliament.

Haugen used her smartphone camera to capture the documents.

Why are they important?

The company has massive global reach. Facebook had 2.74 billion active users as of the end of September, according to company statistics. That is about 1 out of every 3 people on the planet, and the company also operates other popular services such as WhatsApp and Instagram.

How has Facebook responded?

Facebook spokesperson Mavis Jones said in a statement that the company is working to stop abuse on its platform in places where there is a higher risk of conflict, and that it has native speakers to review content in 70 languages.

Founder Mark Zuckerberg spoke during a quarterly earnings conference call Monday and said Facebook is facing “a coordinated effort to selectively use leaked documents to paint a false picture of our company.”

Some information for this report came from the Associated Press, the Agence France-Presse and Reuters.