Facebook's defense during whistleblower hearing falls apart in real time

Sometimes it is best to log off.
This is a lesson Facebook has learned the hard way on Tuesday.

Frances Haugen, a Facebook whistleblower, testified Tuesday at a Senate hearing about how Facebook's platforms impact the well-being of young people. Andy Stone, Facebook's communications director, tweeted responses to Haugen's statements to the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security.

Stone's comments weren't directed at any substance. He was referring to the algorithm of Facebook or internal studies by the company that showed the damage it causes.

Now he is getting dunked both on Twitter and at the Senate hearing.

Stone's rebuttals were essentially a repetition of what Haugen did while at the company.

"Just pointing out that @FrancesHaugen has not worked on child safety, Instagram or researched these issues, and has no direct knowledge of this topic from her work at Facebook," said Facebook's communications director.

"She just stated under oath that she doesn't work on it. He continued.

Stone also tweeted Haugen's testimony to Senator Amy Klobuchar (D–MN) when she asked her about teens being Facebook's most profitable users.

Haugen responded, "I'm certain they are some of Facebook's more profitable users, but I don't work directly with them."

Stone stressed that Stone does not directly work on them.

Lena Pietsch, Facebook's Director for Policy Communications, also issued an official Facebook statement. Stone's defense was also followed by this statement: Attack Haugen. You can also note how long she was there, and what information she would or wouldn't have access to.

Frances Haugen didn't work on safety for children on Instagram. She has never said that she did. Haugen was a lead product manager for civic misinformation at Facebook. She also claims she was involved in counter-espionage.

The documents she gave Congress and to the Wall Street Journal describing how Facebook's platforms are "toxic" for teens were ostensibly done by experts in this field, which was the company's own research. These documents were made accessible to all employees at Facebook, and are the basis of the hearing. These side notes Facebook adds in their response don't change the facts being discussed.

Haugen made sure to only speak about what she knew from Facebook through her work there and the documents that she revealed. Stone's defense strategy is to focus on Stone's truthful statements about things she didn't know firsthand. It's also one that saw him get eviscerated via Twitter.

Senator Marsha Blackburn (R. TN) also called out Facebook's communications chief from within the hearing.

Senator Blackburn saw Stone's tweets after she was made aware and invited him "to step up, be sworn into and testify before the committee."

Stone pointed out in subsequent tweets that Facebook had provided "additional contextual" over the past weeks regarding the leaked Facebook documents concerning the safety concerns for teens. The Wall Street Journal published additional slides from research documents following Facebook's response.

Stone also mentioned the many times Facebook executives have testified to Congress, including the last week's Senate hearing where Facebook's global head for safety spoke out on this topic. Senators often express frustration at the inability to get answers from Facebook representatives, as was the case with last week’s hearing.

Facebook and its employees have every right to defend their rights. The defense strategy used during the hearing was not intended to do that. It seems to have only created more problems for public relations for a company being viewed negatively by the public.

Facebook has had a rough few days. Yesterday's outage was the worst in Facebook history, taking down all Facebook products and costing them billions.

The common thread that ties together all of the company's woes is the fact that they are all self-inflicted. Facebook is the only one who has to be blamed.