Facebook has ordered employees to keep all their emails and documents relating to its businesses since 2016 after government inquiries were opened into the under-fire social media firm’s operations.
A company-wide email sent on Tuesday night told staff to ‘preserve internal documents and communications since 2016’ in a move known as a ‘legal hold’.
Employees were told that encrypted messages should be kept and they should not discuss or post about the order on the company’s internal message board.
Documents related to WhatsApp, augmented reality studio Spark AR and the New Product Experimentation group, an internal incubator, were not included in the legal hold.
But WhatsApp messages relating to other topics have to be preserved, staff were told.
It comes following bombshell claims from former employee turned whistleblower Frances Haugen that the tech giant ignored internal complaints from staff for years to put profits first, ‘lied’ to investors and shielded CEO Mark Zuckerberg from public scrutiny.
Facebook has ordered employees to keep all their emails and documents relating to its businesses since 2016
She claimed Facebook knowingly spread misinformation, fuelled hate speech, failed to crack down on abuses spread on the platform and exacerbated body image issues, particularly among teenage girls.
In the email sent to employees, obtained by the New York Times, Facebook said: ‘As you are probably aware, we’re currently the focus of extensive media coverage based on a swath of internal documents.
‘As is often the case following this kind of reporting, a number of inquiries from governments and legislative bodies have been launched into the company’s operations.’
Facebook acknowledged to shareholders this week it is facing ‘government investigations’ in relation to the leaked documents.
It is not known whether the inquiries refer to the US Senate or the UK Parliament.
Haugen filed her complaints this week to the Securities and Exchange Commission and has also testified in Congress and to British MPs on Monday. She also provided redacted versions to Congress.
It comes following bombshell claims from former employee turned whistleblower Frances Haugen that the tech giant ignored internal complaints from staff for years to put profits first (pictured outside the Houses of Parliament on Monday)
The SEC has not yet confirmed whether it has launched an investigation based on her complaints.
But the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has begun scrutinizing the leaked internal research and said it will closely examine whether the company broke any agreements in the $5billion settlement reached with the agency in 2019 over privacy concerns.
Facebook agreed to the massive settlement in response to its violation of privacy rules through its work with Cambridge Analytica, a research firm that bought the information of tens of millions of users without their knowledge.
The company’s board agreed to create an independent privacy committee that removes ‘unfettered control by Zuckerberg over decisions affecting user privacy’ and also agreed to have greater oversight over third-party apps, Reuters reported.
That settlement also absolved Facebook and its top officials of any other consumer-protection violations known to the FTC at the time, though Democrats in the agency said the settlement did not go far enough or require a large enough fine, per the Wall Street Journal.
Despite the deal Facebook made, Haugen’s massive trove may prove that not much has changed since the company’s Cambridge Analytica scandal.
When asked for comment on the FTC probe, a Facebook spokesperson sent a statement to DailyMail.com that said, ‘We are always ready to answer regulators’ questions and will continue to cooperate with government inquiries.’
The allegations in the leaked documents have prompted lawmakers on both sides of the Atlantic to call for regulation of the tech firm.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn) said the leaked documents show Facebook bosses ‘chronically ignored serious internal alarms, choosing to put profits over people’ and said the company is ‘obviously unable to police itself.’
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) called for a new federal agency to protect personal data and ensure privacy
Meanwhile Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) called for a new federal agency to protect personal data and ensure privacy.
In an op-ed for NBC News, she wrote: ‘The approach companies like Facebook take to data is motivated not by protecting our privacy but by growing their profit and power.’
Her proposed agency would review ‘high-risk’ data practices and write new rules for data privacy, she suggested.
Legislation in the UK and the EU is further along with draft bills expected in early 2021 to introduce independent digital regulation.
It comes after Facebook executives were accused of being ‘drunk on power’ in internal messages after they attempted to block messages of support for Kenosha gunman Kyle Rittenhouse.
Kyle Rittenhouse, left, was 17 when he shot and killed two people in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on August 25, 2020. He was part of a vigilante group claiming they were defending property from arson and rioting
A protester is seen walking past a burning building on August 24, after the shooting of Jacob Blake
Rittenhouse, a right-wing vigilante, shot and killed two Black Lives Matter protesters amid unrest following the shooting by police of Jacob Blake, in August 2020.
Rittenhouse, who was 17 at the time, was seen as a hero by some on the right, who insisted he was on the streets to prevent rioting by the BLM activists.
Facebook took down many pro-Rittenhouse posts, arguing that they were in violation of the site’s rules which banned the promotion of violence.
Facebook’s rules ban praise and support of a mass shooter, or a mass shooting itself.
During an internal discussion, most employees agreed with the decision.
But one said that the Facebook leaders were taking too drastic a role in censoring people’s beliefs.
‘The rioting has been going on for over three months and it’s only an issue now because people inside the company saw violence they didn’t like,’ the staffer said, in internal documents obtained by The New York Post.
Rittenhouse has been charged with murder. He is seen on Monday, ahead of his trial, which begins next week
‘Employees are drunk on the absolute power of being in control of civics in America, without ever having to visit a voting booth (if voting is even an option).’
The employee, a data scientist with Facebook, questioned whether Facebook was taking the right approach to moderating posts in support of Rittenhouse – who was 17 at the time of the shooting, and not legally allowed to carry the firearms used in the shooting.
‘Can we really consistently and objectively differentiate between support (not allowed) and discussion of whether [Rittenhouse] is being treated justly (allowed)?’ the data scientist wrote.
‘Try reading the posts mentioning him and see if you can separate violating from non-violating content.
‘I know that our company is full of dedicated smart people who want to do the right thing.
‘However, I don’t think the current system we are working in enables us to succeed, even as we have the money, talent and motivation that should lead us on the right path.’
Rittenhouse has been charged with murder, and his trial is scheduled to begin next week.
To add to his woes, Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan have been sued over alleged racist and homophobic abuse inflicted on two staffers by their former household security boss, which is said to have included a dig at Meghan Markle.
Mia King, a black LGBR woman who served as a security operations assistant, and a John Doe, a gay and disabled man who worked as a household operations manager, claimed they were subject to racist and homophobic abuse by the billionaire couple’s former head of security Liam Booth, Business Insider reports.
In their twin lawsuit, filed in San Francisco County, King said Booth would often call her ‘ghetto’ and complain that Meghan Markle, who is bi-racial, ‘polluted the royal blood line’ following her marriage to Prince Harry.
Doe also claimed that Booth, a former Secret Service agent whose race has not been disclosed, allegedly made constant comments about his homosexuality and slapped his groin at a sushi restaurant in 2018.
Pictured, Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan with their family
The couple run a home office operation through their California estate, pictured. Employees have alleged that a pattern of discriminatory behavior took place at the home office
Former head of security Liam Booth allegedly made a slew of racist remarks against black people, and directed such comments at Meghan Mark, wife of Prince Harry, pictured above
Other employees had previously witnessed Booth groping Doe’s butt in Zuckerberg’s Montana property that same year and imitating ‘lewd sex acts’ in front him, the lawsuit states. Zuckernberg and Chan’s main property sits in the Bay Area, but they also own homes in Hawaii and Montana.
Booth, a former Secret Service agent who once served in President Barack Obama’s personal protection detail, resigned from Zuckerberg’s family office in 2019 following a probe into the complaints when Business Insider first reported them.
Zuckerberg and Chan have refuted these claims, and their personal spokesperson, Ben LaBolt, said in a statement that the company’s internal investigation found no evidence of wrongdoing.
‘As we previously stated when these claims were anonymously leaked to the media over two years ago, our family office follows a strict code of conduct that requires appropriate behavior from all members of our teams. It is our expectation that each of our employees adheres to this code of conduct,’ LaBolt said.
‘Any complaint made to our HR personnel is taken seriously and is investigated and addressed. We are proud of the team of professionals who work in the family office and are confident that these claims, which seek to unfairly disparage our colleagues, will fail.’
Booth has yet to make a statement regarding the allegations in the three years since they first surfaced.
Also named in the suit are Doe’s boss Brian Mosteller, and Monica Moorhouse, an ex-human resources employee for the family office.
They could not immediately be reached by DailyMail.com.