Facebook VP Disputes Reports That Company Ignored Platform-Wide Issues Harming Users

Facebook reacted to recent Wall Street Journal reports that highlighted a cache of leaked documents that showed how Facebook executives were slow to address known problems on its platforms that could harm users. Nick Clegg (Vice President of Global Affairs at Facebook) stated in a blog post that the articles were deliberately mischaracterized and gave egregiously false motives for Facebook's leadership and employees.

The Journal referred to internal documents, including research reports, online discussions with employees, and drafts for presentations to senior management. They stated that Facebook's researchers raised alarms over the platform's ill effects repeatedly, but were ignored by high-ranking officials. These documents showed that company research had shown how Instagram could be detrimental to teen mental health. They also revealed that Facebook executives did not address concerns raised by employees about reports that the platform was being used to traffick people in developing countries. And that Facebook offers preferential treatment for certain high-profile users who violate its rules.

Clegg stated that Facebook should be held responsible for its handling of harmful issues on its platforms. However, Journals reports used cherry-picked quotations from leaked material to present a biased view of the larger facts.

Clegg stated that the core of the series revolves around a false allegation: Facebook conducts research, then willfully and systematically ignores the results if they are not convenient for the company.

He continued by saying that there are two types of research: ideas that are useful and ideas that are less effective. Ideas where tradeoffs with other important considerations are more detrimental than the proposed solution. Facebook teams continue to consider a variety of improvements, even though not all ideas raised by researchers are implemented.

Clegg supported Facebook's handling of information about coronavirus vaccine, which was another topic raised in the Journals report. Clegg stated that the interplay between social media use and well-being remains a topic of ongoing debate within the research community. He also said that social media is rapidly changing in response to a growing body of expert input and multi-method research.

A Facebook article that was published Friday claims that researchers warned the company about anti-vaxxers conspiring to flood the comments section with false claims and propaganda. In early 2021, an internal report estimated that 40% of vaccine-related comments discouraged people from getting the coronavirus vaccination. Unicef and the World Health Organization, which were among the people who were bombarded with comments, also raised concerns to Facebook.


After Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO, indicated that it would not take strong action against antivaccination misinformation in the same way it did for the coronavirus pandemic, these targeted anti-vax misinformation campaign grew rapidly.

He said that if someone points out a case in which a vaccine has caused harm or they are worried about it, that's something that I shouldn't allow them to say.