Facebook finds itself embroiled in controversy yet again after more than two hours of audio from internal company meetings were leaked to The Verge, which published highlights of the recordings on Tuesday.
In the audio, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg blasts Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s plan to break up the company. He also explains why he refused to testify in front of various governments around the world and lays out his plan to squash TikTok, an upstart social media app.
The recordings offer a taste of Zuckerberg’s real thoughts on a myriad topics, but more notable than Zuckerberg’s candid commentary is the fact that so much was recorded and leaked to the press. The leak shows the growing dissent inside of Facebook.
Facebook is a company that offers transparency to its employees. It holds all-hands meetings with top executives every Friday afternoon, and employees are allowed to walk into most parts of the company, multiple sources previously told CNBC. Employees also keep their colleagues updated on their work by posting on Workplace, the company’s internal social network, the sources said.
Although Facebook encourages transparency among colleagues, it does not tolerate external leaks. The company, for example, often warns employees that they should not talk to the press, with the communications team at times singling out specific reporters, a former employee previously told CNBC. The fear of speaking to the press is so great that several Facebook employees with interests in speaking to the media will do as soon as they finally turnover their badge, but not one day earlier, multiple sources previously told CNBC.
Whenever the source of a leak is found, that individual gets terminated, former employees told CNBC. Facebook has teams that investigate scandals and go after leakers.
The Verge does not specify who leaked the recordings, but those all hand meetings include only full-time Facebook employees, multiple sources previously told CNBC. Facebook contractors, temp workers and vendors enjoy many of the same luxuries as their full-time counterparts, including access to free food, but there are two key things they are not given access to: the company gym and the Friday all-hands meetings.
If current employees are going into the all-hands meetings and recording audio of their CEO, that is a sign that employee morale is in the dumps, multiple former Facebook employees told CNBC on Tuesday.
“It shows that employees still haven’t really got past what happened in 2017-2018,” said Henry Liu, a former strategic account manager at Facebook who left the company in 2017.
This isn’t the first sign that employee morale has dropped. A leaked internal survey in November showed that employee morale had dropped across numerous metrics, according to the Wall Street Journal. And in December, Facebook saw its Glassdoor employee satisfaction rating drop, causing the company to lose its perch as the best place to work in 2018 to the seventh spot.
Over the past three years, Facebook has endured a barrage of scandals on all fronts. The company has faced criticism over its handling of fake news, user privacy, its treatment of content moderators and a slew of other topics, including Russia’s use of the platform to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The company underwent the biggest scandal in its history in March 2018 when it was revealed that data firm Cambridge Analytica improperly accessed the data of 87 million Facebook users and used it, in part, to target ads for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election.
Now, the company faces multiple antitrust investigations by the Trump administration and a bevy of Democratic presidential candidates, with Elizabeth Warren at the forefront, calling for a breakup of the company.
“Violations like [the leaked recording] are not treated lightly because the trust is fundamental to how [Facebook] can operate with transparency,” Liu said. “Likely that person will be terminated and runs the risk of not being able to be hired elsewhere for that behavior.”
Facebook employees know what’s at stake when they leak, but Tuesday’s recordings are a sign of changing times, four former Facebook employees told CNBC.
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