Categories
Journalism

Facebook Parent Meta Announces Layoffs of 11,000 Staff

That’s the headline on my newest story, out Wednesday with my colleague Sam Schechner. It begins:

Meta Platforms Inc. said it would cut more than 11,000 workers, or 13% of staff, embarking on the company’s first broad restructuring as it copes with a slumping digital-ad market and plunging stock price.

The layoffs add to a wave of job cuts that are roiling Silicon Valley, where tech giants that added employees by the tens of thousands through the pandemic are now retrenching.

In a message to staff on Wednesday morning, Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said the company, the parent of Facebook and Instagram, would cut staff across all of its businesses, with its recruiting and business teams disproportionately affected. The company is also tightening its belt by reducing its office space, moving to desk-sharing for some workers and extending a hiring freeze through the first quarter of 2023.

“This is a sad moment, and there’s no way around that,” Mr. Zuckerberg wrote, adding that he had been wrong in assuming that an increase in online activity during the pandemic would continue. “I got this wrong and I take responsibility for that.”

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My colleagues Jeff Horwitz and Salvador Rodriguez had the scoop Monday on the coming cuts.

Categories
India Journalism

Meta Officials Cite Security Concerns for Failing to Release Full India Hate-Speech Study

That’s the headline on my latest story, an exclusive out Wednesday. It begins:

Executives at Meta Platforms Inc. privately told rights groups that security concerns prevented them from releasing details of its investigation into hate speech on its services in India, according to audio recordings heard by The Wall Street Journal.

Meta, the parent company of Facebook, in July released a four-page summary of a human-rights impact assessment on India, its biggest market by users, where it has faced accusations of failing to adequately police hate speech against religious minorities. The India summary was part of the company’s first global human-rights report. The 83-page global report offers detailed findings of some previous investigations; it included only general descriptions of its India assessment, which disappointed some rights advocates.

“This is not the report that the human-rights team at Meta wanted to publish, we wanted to be able to publish more,” Iain Levine, a Meta senior human-rights adviser, said during private online briefings with rights groups in late July after the summary was released, according to the recordings.

“A decision was made at the highest levels of the company based upon both internal and external advice that it was not possible to do so for security reasons,” he said.

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Categories
Tech

Roblox Poaches Seasoned Meta Executive as It Chases Growth in Asia

That’s the headline on my newest story, an exclusive with my colleague Sarah Needleman, out Friday. It begins:

HONG KONG—Roblox Corp. has poached a Meta Platforms Inc. executive for the newly created role of Asia-Pacific head of public policy, as the videogame company chases growth in the region.

Steve Park, the longtime government relations head for South Korea and Japan at Facebook’s parent company, will join Roblox next week, a spokeswoman for the San Mateo, Calif.-based company said.

Mr. Park has been at Meta for more than eight years and in a previous position worked on the company’s Oculus virtual-reality business, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Mr. Park declined to comment on his appointment, referring queries to the Roblox spokeswoman.

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Categories
Hong Kong Tech

Hong Kong’s Crackdown on Dissent Hits Facebook Pages

That’s the headline on my newest story, out yesterday. It begins:

HONG KONG—A national-security crackdown in Hong Kong has extended to Facebook pages on which many workers and residents traded gossip.

Several prominent Facebook pages that were used to share anonymous comments about government and educational institutions in Hong Kong have shut down in recent days, following the arrest last week of two men by national-security police on suspicion of sedition. The men were administrators of a social-media group and suspected of publishing posts that “promote feelings of ill-will,” police said.

Soon after the arrests, a Facebook page called Civil Servant Secrets that had more than 204,000 followers went offline. It displayed a message saying its content was no longer available, which typically means administrators have deleted it. Last month the page hosted a video showing a police officer who appeared to be sleeping in a break room while on duty.

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Categories
Journalism Tech

Amazon Sues Administrators of More Than 10,000 Facebook Groups Over Fake Reviews

That’s the headline on a story I wrote Tuesday. It begins:

Amazon.com Inc. said it filed a lawsuit against the administrators of what it says are more than 10,000 Facebook groups used to coordinate fake reviews of Amazon products.

Those in charge of the Facebook groups solicit the reviews for items ranging from camera tripods to car stereos in exchange for free products or money, Amazon said in a statement.

The activity, which is against Amazon’s rules, occurs across Amazon’s stores in the U.S., U.K., Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Japan, the company said. Such bogus reviews are typically used to boost products’ ratings and increase the likelihood customers buy them.

The lawsuit represents “proactive legal action targeting bad actors,” Amazon Vice President Dharmesh Mehta said.

My colleague Nicole Nguyen wrote last year about the problem of inauthentic reviews on Amazon.

And she has a new story out Wednesday, in the wake of Amazon’s suit, with tips on spotting fake reviews.

Categories
Journalism Tech

Facebook Parent Meta Details Human-Rights Efforts

I’m late in sharing it here, but that’s the headline on a story I wrote last week with my colleague Salvador Rodriguez. It begins:

Facebook parent Meta Platforms Inc. released its first annual report Thursday on the effect its services have on global human rights, highlighting its efforts to combat challenges including human trafficking, the spread of misinformation and attacks on election integrity.

Facebook’s global operations are drawing scrutiny from rights groups and regulators. While user growth has stalled in rich countries, it continues to expand internationally, especially in populous, developing markets.

You may recall I wrote in November about Facebook’s India human rights impact assessment, a separate report that was commissioned some time ago. Rights groups told me they believed Facebook was trying to stifle it.

This newest report contains a summary of the India HRIA. The HRIA was done by a law firm Facebook commissioned to do the work. Facebook says it has no plans to release the HRIA in its entirety.

That’s drawn more criticism from groups that contributed to the HRIA. One called Facebook’s decision “deeply disappointing.”

You can read Facebook’s full human rights report on their website here. The India material begins on page 57.

Categories
Journalism

Another Facebook Files Accolade: Deadline Club’s Public Service Award

Deadline Club Facebook Files

Following our Polk and SABEW wins, I’m proud to say my colleague Jeff Horwitz and our Wall Street Journal Facebook Files team has picked up another accolade: the public service award from The Deadline Club. (That’s the name of the New York City chapter of the the Society of Professional Journalists.)

The Club wrote:

“The ‘Facebook Files’ is a dazzling 10-reporter, 17-story package built on extensive original interviewing and research, and an archeological-grade probe of internal Facebook documents, including internal studies, online employee discussions and drafts of presentations to senior management. The Wall Street Journal’s coverage did not just force Facebook to change its core business practices. It also goaded governments and individuals worldwide to reexamine society’s relationship with technology itself and the power and pervasiveness of social media.”

Categories
Journalism

We Won a SABEW Award for our Facebook Files Series

SABEW award

I’m proud to say that my colleagues Jeff Horwitz, Georgia Wells, Justin Scheck, Deepa Seetharaman and I won the 2021 investigative award (for large news organizations) from the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing, or SABEW, for our “Facebook Files” series.

“In an example of truly exemplary reporting that arguably had scope beyond compare, the judges unanimously chose Facebook Files as the winner in our category,” SABEW said. “The series featured remarkable reporting and writing that exposed the ways Facebook knew it was injuring its 3-billion-plus users and the repeated failures to make efforts to protect the users.”

(We also won a George Polk award in March for the series. And last year Jeff and I won a SABEW for our stories on Facebook and hate speech in India.)

Categories
Journalism

We Won a George Polk Award for our Facebook Files Series

I’m proud to say that my colleague Jeff Horwitz and our wider Wall Street Journal team last week won a George Polk award for our Facebook Files series.

It was “an explosive series documenting how Facebook (now Meta) ignored internal findings that company practices promoted anger, divisiveness and extremism; protected drug cartels, human traffickers and dictators; and endangered teenage girls susceptible to body-image concerns, anxiety and depression,” the award announcement said.

“Files Horwitz obtained from a whistleblower demonstrated that top executives rejected fixes they feared might reduce profitability or create political friction.”

Categories
Journalism Tech

Facebook Promised Poor Countries Free Internet. People Got Charged Anyway

That’s the headline on my newest story, with my colleagues Justin Scheck and Tom McGinty. It was on Tuesday’s WSJ front page. It begins:

Facebook says it’s helping millions of the world’s poorest people get online through apps and services that allow them to use internet data free. Internal company documents show that many of these people end up being charged in amounts that collectively add up to an estimated millions of dollars a month.

To attract new users, Facebook made deals with cellular carriers in countries including Pakistan, Indonesia and the Philippines to let low-income people use a limited version of Facebook and browse some other websites without data charges. Many of the users have inexpensive cellphone plans that cost just a few dollars a month, often prepaid, for phone service and a small amount of internet data.

Because of software problems at Facebook, which it has known about and failed to correct for months, people using the apps in free mode are getting unexpectedly charged by local cellular carriers for using data. In many cases they only discover this when their prepaid plans are drained of funds.

In internal documents, employees of Facebook parent Meta Platforms Inc. acknowledge this is a problem. Charging people for services Facebook says are free “breaches our transparency principle,” an employee wrote in an October memo.

In the year ended July 2021, charges made by the cellular carriers to users of Facebook’s free-data products grew to an estimated total of $7.8 million a month, when purchasing power adjustments were made, from about $1.3 million a year earlier, according to a Facebook document.

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