The Slatest

Facebook Reportedly Tried to Pit Lawmakers Against Each Other Using Partisan Arguments

A blond woman at a table with a placard that says "Ms. Haugen" in front of her.
Former Facebook employee Frances Haugen testifies on Capitol Hill on Dec. 1. Alex Wong/Getty Images

When a whistleblower came forward and revealed damaging revelations about Facebook’s operations, the company’s lobbyists seemed to know exactly what to do to prevent lawmakers from joining forces against it. There appeared to be a clear strategy to play a partisan game, telling Republican lawmakers the whistleblower was working for the Democrats and telling Democrats Republicans were against the company, reports the Wall Street Journal. Ultimately, the company’s goal was to “muddy the waters” and make sure lawmakers were divided in order to “forestall a cross-party alliance that was emerging to enact tougher rules on social-media companies in general and Facebook in particular,” notes the Journal.

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As soon as Frances Haugen came forward, the strategy became clear. The company told Republicans that Haugen was trying to help Democrats, and sure enough, several right-leaning outlets started publishing stories that claimed the whistleblower was a Democratic activist. When it came time to talk to Democrats, the lobbyists pushed a different story line and said that Republicans wanted to crush the company for its decision to ban people from expressing support for Kyle Rittenhouse, the teenager who killed two people in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

As lobbyists worked the phones, inside Facebook, executives pursued their own strategy that essentially consisted of turning the page. Chief executive Mark Zuckerberg ended up changing the company’s name to Meta Platforms and told employees that no one should apologize. “When our work is being mischaracterized, we’re not going to apologize,” Facebook spokesman Andy Stone said. “We’re going to defend our record.”

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