Facebook told employees Tuesday it was making some of its internal online discussion groups private in an effort to minimize leaks.
Many Facebook employees participate in online discussion groups on Workplace, an internal message board that employees use to communicate and collaborate with each other. In the announcement on Tuesday, the company said it was focusing some groups on platform security and protecting elections, an area commonly known as “integrity,” private rather than public within the company, restricting who can view the discussion threads and can participate in it.
The move follows the disclosure by Frances Haugen, a former employee, of thousands of pages of internal documents to regulators, lawmakers and the news media. The documents revealed that Facebook was aware of some of the damage it caused. Ms. Haugen, a former member of Facebook’s civic disinformation team, filed a whistleblower complaint with the Securities and Exchange Commission and testified before a Senate subcommittee this month.
“As everyone probably knows, we’ve seen an increase in integrity-related leaks in recent months,” a chief technical officer wrote in the announcement, which was reviewed by The New York Times. “These leaks are not representative of the nuances and complexity of our work and are often taken out of context, mischaracterizing our work externally.”
Facebook was known for an open culture that encouraged debate and transparency, but it has become more insular as it has addressed leaks about things like toxic speech and misinformation and grappled with employee unrest. In July, the communications team closed down the comments on an internal forum used for company-wide announcements, writing, “OUR ONLY REQUEST: DO NOT LEASE PLEASE.”
“Leaks make it harder for our teams to work together, can put employees working on sensitive topics at risk externally, and lead to complex topics being misrepresented and misunderstood,” Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone said in a statement.
Tuesday’s announcement said Facebook plans to search some of its online discussion groups to remove individuals whose work isn’t related to safety and security. The changes will take place in “the coming months” and “with the expectation that sensitive integrity discussions will take place in closed, curated forums in the future.”
In internal comments shared with The Times, some employees supported the move, while others denounced the loss of transparency and collaboration. They called the change “counterproductive” and “discouraging,” with one person suggesting it could lead to even more leaks from disgruntled employees.
“I think every employee at the company should think about and work on integrity as part of their day-to-day job, and we need to build a culture where that’s the expectation,” wrote one Facebook employee. “Isolating the people who are committed to integrity will both harm active efforts to collaborate and reduce the cultural expectation that integrity is everyone’s responsibility.”
Mike Isaac reporting contributed.