Updated Oct 3, 2021 - Technology

Facebook denies whistleblower's claims it contributed to Capitol riot

 Nick Clegg, Facebook rep and former Liberal Democrats leader, speaks at a Liberal Democrat Party Conference fringe event at the Hilton Hotel in 2018 in Brighton, England.
Nick Clegg, Facebook's vice president of policy and global affairs. Photo: Jack Taylor/Getty Images

Facebook executive Nick Clegg said in a defiant internal memo that a former employee will accuse the company of contributing to the U.S. Capitol riot, the New York Times first reported Saturday.

Why it matters: Facebook appears to be launching a pre-emptive strike against the whistleblower with the memo, also shared with Axios, ahead of her CBS "60 Minutes" interview airing Sunday and her scheduled appearance at a Senate hearing Tuesday.

  • She will accuse the tech giant on "60 Minutes" of contributing to polarization in the U.S., writes Clegg, Facebook's vice president of global affairs, in the memo.
  • Clegg states that the program will "suggest that the extraordinary steps we took for the 2020 elections were relaxed too soon and contributed to the horrific events of January 6th in the Capitol."

Driving the news: The whistleblower will reveal her identity on "60 Minutes" and outline allegations based on thousands of pages of internal research she provided the Securities and Exchange Commission, according to CBS.

  • She claims she can "prove Facebook is lying to the public and investors about the effectiveness of its campaigns to eradicate hate, violence and misinformation from its platforms," per CBS.
  • Facebook has been fielding criticism over its internal research into Instagram's negative impact on teenage girls after the whistleblower leaked a trove of documents to the Wall Street Journal.

What they're saying: "What evidence there is simply does not support the idea that Facebook, or social media more generally, is the primary cause of polarization," Clegg states in the memo, sent Friday.

  • "[P]olarizing content and misinformation are also present on platforms that have no algorithmic ranking whatsoever, including private messaging apps like iMessage and WhatsApp."

What to watch: Clegg is due to appear on CNN's "Reliable Sources" on Sunday morning.

  • Representatives for CBS did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment.

Read the memo in full, via DocumentCloud:

Go deeper: Facebook's secrecy boomerang

Editor's note: This article has been updated to include Clegg's memo.

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