Facebook Staff Urged to Snitch on Zuckerberg Over Election Disinformation

Facebook’s own employees are being urged to blow the whistle on their employer to help save the integrity of the presidential election.
October 22, 2020, 1:14pm
Mark Zuckerberg, Chairman of Facebook, speaks on the second day of the 56th Munich Security Conference, 15 February 2020, Bavaria, Munich (Tobias Hase/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images​)
Mark Zuckerberg, Chairman of Facebook, speaks on the second day of the 56th Munich Security Conference, 15 February 2020, Bavaria, Munich (Tobias Hase/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images)
Logo_Disinfo Dispatch Padding
Unraveling viral disinformation and explaining where it came from, the harm it's causing, and what we should do about it.

It has come to this: Facebook’s own employees are being urged to snitch on their employer in order to help save the integrity of the presidential election.

The campaign, which is being organized by Free Press, a nonpartisan digital rights group, is urging Facebook employees to speak up if they have seen something that “could threaten the integrity of the election.”

Using Facebook’s own ad platform, Free Press is rolling out a series of ads that will target those working inside the company, urging them to become whistleblowers and share information directly and confidentially with the New York attorney general’s office, which has opened an investigation against Facebook.

“If we’re going to protect our democracy and crackdown on disinformation and voter disenfranchisement, then those with knowledge of the company’s inner workings must speak up,” Craig Aaron, CEO of Free Press said in an emailed statement. “That’s the only way the truth will emerge.”

Here’s an example of the type of ads Facebook employees will see, directing them to this page with more information about how they can make a confidential submission to the New York AG’s office:

The campaign is counting on the fact that employees at Facebook are privy to information about how the company is enforcing its own policies to prevent the spread of disinformation.

“At this critical juncture for our country, this ad campaign is Free Press’ effort to encourage people at Facebook to share what they know with those in a position to do something about it,” Aaron said. “Our message to Facebook employees is simple: If you’ve seen something, please say something.”

Facebook has long been criticized for failing to prevent its platform from being weaponized by those seeking to spread disinformation. Free Press is just the latest activist group to launch a campaign targeting Facebook and its founder Mark Zuckerberg.

In recent weeks, the high-profile Real Facebook Oversight Board — which is not the Facebook-sanctioned Oversight Board — has held a number of events to highlight Facebook’s failings in the lead up to the election.

And the trend is set to continue: Accountable Tech, which as its name suggests is trying to hold Big Tech companies accountable, will broadcast an ad slamming Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. It will air during the final presidential debate on Thursday night.

The ad is aiming to show the disparity between Zuckerberg’s public pledges and the reality of the dangers posed by the platform he controls.

The 30-second spot starts out with old footage of Zuckerberg saying that he wants his daughters to “grow up and be proud” of what he has built at Facebook. The ad then cuts to the company's failure to flag the threat posed by an armed militia event in Kenosha, which was advertised on Facebook.

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Free Press campaign or the Accountable Tech ad.

Here’s what else is happening in the world of election disinformation.

So many questions, so few answers

On Wednesday night, the Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe and FBI Director Christopher Wray held a hastily-arranged press conference (which just happened to coincide with a press conference by former President Barack Obama).

In very brief statements, the intel chiefs revealed that Iran was behind a campaign of voter intimidation emails that was made to look like it came from the Proud Boys. They added that both Tehran and Moscow had obtained an unspecified number of voter registration details — much of which is freely available online for anyone to see.

The announcement raised many questions about the speed at which this email campaign was attributed to Iran. In 2016, it took months for the FBI to point the finger conclusively at Russia for the DNC hack. This time around it took just days.

While Iran’s cyber operations are not as sophisticated as Russia’s and might be easier to detect, Ratcliffe seems to have been a bit hasty in his conclusions. U.S. officials told Reuters that “the evidence remains inconclusive” as to whether Tehran was behind the attacks.

U.S. intel is throwing everything it has at Russia’s efforts to disrupt the election

Despite their boss dismissing the threat from Moscow as insignificant, U.S. intel is throwing the kitchen sink at Russia’s efforts to undermine the 2020 elections, the Washington Post reports.

For months, intel chiefs have been warning the public that Russia remains a significant threat to the integrity of the 2002 elections and these actions reflect those assessments. 

The effort targeting the Kremlin includes thwarting foreign hackers, preventing people with links to Russia from entering the country and freezing their assets, sharing intelligence with social networks, and knocking Russia’s cyber operations offline while helping local and state governments shore up their defenses.

Conservatives think making it harder to retweet is another form of censorship

Having to click twice to retweet a message rather than once is the latest effort by Twitter to silence conservative voices.

At least that’s what pro-Trump accounts said in response to Twitter’s latest effort to slow the spread of disinformation on its platform.

On Wednesday, the social network rolled out a new feature that prompts users to add a comment to a tweet they want to retweet. The effort Twitter says is designed to make people think twice about sharing content, particularly if they haven’t read the articles they’re trying to share.

Sean Davis, the founder of the conservative magazine The Federalist, responded by saying Twitter is “knee-capping their own business to stick it to Republicans and prevent any pro-Trump narratives from taking hold.” 

Davis’ tweet has been retweeted — without comment — 7,500 times. 

LeBron is tackling disinformation that targets Black voters

Black voters once again being targeted with a deluge of disinformation seeking to dissuade them from voting ahead of next month’s election.

Activist groups across the country are trying to counter those messages, and now they have one of the greatest basketball players of all time on their side.

LeBron James announced Wednesday his involvement with More Than a Vote, a collective of athletes trying to combat misinformation in Black communities before Election Day.

“We believe that Black people, our community, we’ve been pushed away from our civic duty. We’ve been fed misinformation for many years,” James told the New York Times.

“And I’m in a position where I can educate people and, through More Than a Vote, educate people on how important this movement is, and how important their civic duty is. Not only to empower themselves, but to give back to their community as well.”