But some of Facebook’s containment has at times backfired with its own workers. This week, the company downplayed the internal research that The Journal had partly based its articles on, suggesting that the findings were limited and imprecise. That angered some employees who had worked on the research, three people said. They have congregated on group chats to decry the characterizations as unfair, and some have privately threatened to quit.
In one group text message chain shared with The New York Times, Facebook data scientists and researchers discussed how they were being “embarrassed” by their own employer. On a company message board, one employee wrote in a post this week: “They are making a mockery of the research.”
“Facebook’s UX research team is one of the best in the industry,” said Sahar Massachi, a Facebook engineer who worked on election integrity and left the company in 2019. “Instead of attacking their employees, Facebook should be giving integrity researchers the authority to more fully do their jobs.”
The furor is unlikely to die down. On Sunday, the whistle-blower who leaked the internal research and is a former Facebook employee is set to reveal her identity and discuss the documents on “60 Minutes.” She will then appear at a Senate hearing on Tuesday to testify about what she discovered while conducting research at Facebook.
Kevin McAlister, a Facebook spokesman, said the company has been “under intense scrutiny, and it only makes sense that we’ve built teams to streamline internal and external responses, as well as for those teams to help fast-track fixes in areas where we need to improve.”
Since the Journal articles were published starting on Sept. 13, Facebook’s “Strategic Response” teams, which have handled many crises in recent years, has grappled with responses. The teams, led by company veterans Tucker Bounds and Molly Cutler and acting under the direction of Mr. Clegg, sought input from Facebook’s top researchers, the people said. Facebook then pushed back with blog posts that said The Journal articles were inaccurate and lacked context.
Executives also convened to discuss the future of research at Facebook, said two people briefed on the calls. Some questioned whether the social network should continue conducting research on its products because they said companies such as Apple did not do similar user studies. Mr. Clegg supported continuing the research, the people said, and others ultimately agreed.