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Facebook Slows Down New Products For “Reputation Reviews”

Facebook Inc. has delayed the rollout of new products in recent days, people familiar with the matter have said, amid media reports and congressional hearings over a mine of internal documents showing the damage done by its platforms.

Executives at the social media company have also suspended some work on new and existing products while more than a dozen people are involved in conducting “reputation reviews” to examine how Facebook can be criticized and for s ” ensure that the products do not have a negative impact. children, people said.

In a Facebook post on Tuesday, chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said he asked executives to deepen work across the company over the next few days and pledged to continue researching the company’s products.

“I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the kinds of experiences I want my kids and others to have online, and it’s very important to me that everything we build is safe and good for kids,” he wrote.

This follows Facebook’s announcement last week that it was suspending plans for its Instagram Kids product after lawmakers and others expressed concerns about the photo-sharing platform’s health effects. mental youth. Facebook announced features for existing services, such as Facebook Gaming, in recent days.

Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen detailed internal documents she gathered showing the negative impacts of the company’s products and urged lawmakers to consider stricter regulations. Photo: Stefani Reynolds / Bloomberg News

Facebook is answering questions from the public, lawmakers on both sides and others about how its platforms work and their effects on users and society in general.

The review follows the Wall Street Journal’s Facebook Files series, which included an article showing the company’s internal research found Instagram to be harmful to a significant percentage of young users, especially teenage girls with problems. body image.

The company has published a number of blog posts saying the research has been taken out of context.

Mr. Zuckerberg weighed in on the controversy for the first time publicly on Tuesday night, saying the Journal’s reports painted a “false image” of Facebook and its priorities. The Journal said it supported his reports.

Facebook’s pledge to continue researching potential harms follows criticism from academics and former employees that the company should share more data on how its platforms work and on users so these issues can. to be better understood.

The team behind CrowdTangle, one of Facebook’s best data analytics tools, was revamped earlier this year. Brandon Silverman, founder of CrowdTangle, announced Wednesday that he will be leaving the company by the end of the week. “I’m not sure what the future holds for CrowdTangle or data transparency here on Facebook, but I’m optimistic,” Silverman said in his farewell note.

Facebook has tightened the reins on information shared internally in recent weeks, people said. A team within the company is reviewing all internal research that could potentially damage Facebook’s image if made public, some people said.

Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone said the team is looking to better understand Facebook’s internal searches and the context in which they were conducted.

There have been two Congressional hearings since the Journal’s series was published last month, including one on Tuesday by the Senate Consumer Protection Subcommittee. During that hearing, former Facebook employee Frances Haugen, who compiled documents that served as the basis for the Journal’s reports and provided to federal regulators, urged Facebook to share internal research more widely and external. In products like cars and cigarettes, she said, independent researchers can assess health effects, but “the public can’t do the same with Facebook.”

Mr Zuckerberg wrote in Tuesday’s Facebook post: “We are committed to doing more research ourselves and making more research available to the public.

Facebook’s vice president for content policy Monika Bickert called the documents stolen in an interview on CNN on Tuesday after the last Senate hearing.

Facebook executives have discussed the possibility of prosecuting Ms Haugen for alleging she stole company documents, people familiar with the talks said. Some have expressed concerns about whether such a move would further damage reputation, one of the people said.

Facebook’s global security chief Antigone Davis told senators last week that her company would not retaliate against the individual for providing Congress with internal research into the company, but did address no further action possible.

Inside Facebook, many data scientists and internal researchers say the company should publish more documents and research. Many other employees say they feel attacked by the media and lawmakers, especially since other tech companies don’t do this type of research in the first place.

Facebook politicians have also tried to gauge and influence lawmakers’ views on the company, both before and after the recent hearings, congressional advisers said. Facebook executives recently reached out to congressional advisers to further detail the company’s decision to suspend Instagram Kids, and reiterated that the product was designed to address the issue of kids getting younger phones, according to a document described in the Journal.

Politicians also cited other internal Facebook research done to improve its products, such as anti-harassment work that restricted certain words and instituted word limits, according to the document.

“Of course lawmakers have a lot of questions and our team wants to make sure they have accurate information about what we’re doing,” Facebook’s Stone said.

Some senators said they would write letters to Facebook, demanding more information. Congressional advisers said they expected lawmakers to call other executives for additional hearings on the matter and to subpoena company documents.

Write to Emily Glazer at [email protected] and Deepa Seetharaman at [email protected]

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