This is very troubling.

Courtesy of Buzzfeed

Facebook ignored or was slow to act on evidence that fake accounts on its platform have been undermining elections and political affairs around the world, according to an explosive memo sent by a recently fired Facebook employee and obtained by BuzzFeed News.

The 6,600-word memo, written by former Facebook data scientist Sophie Zhang, is filled with concrete examples of heads of government and political parties in Azerbaijan and Honduras using fake accounts or misrepresenting themselves to sway public opinion. In countries including India, Ukraine, Spain, Brazil, Bolivia, and Ecuador, she found evidence of coordinated campaigns of varying sizes to boost or hinder political candidates or outcomes, though she did not always conclude who was behind them.

“In the three years I’ve spent at Facebook, I’ve found multiple blatant attempts by foreign national governments to abuse our platform on vast scales to mislead their own citizenry, and caused international news on multiple occasions,” wrote Zhang, who declined to talk to BuzzFeed News. Her LinkedIn profile said she “worked as the data scientist for the Facebook Site Integrity fake engagement team” and dealt with “bots influencing elections and the like.”

“I have personally made decisions that affected national presidents without oversight, and taken action to enforce against so many prominent politicians globally that I’ve lost count,” she wrote.

The memo is a damning account of Facebook’s failures. It’s the story of Facebook abdicating responsibility for malign activities on its platform that could affect the political fate of nations outside the United States or Western Europe. It’s also the story of a junior employee wielding extraordinary moderation powers that affected millions of people without any real institutional support, and the personal torment that followed.

“I know that I have blood on my hands by now,” Zhang wrote.

Zhang offered example after example of incidents where folks published fake information on Facebook to undermine candidates, push political agendas, or manipulate the outcome of elections. 

In some cases, they were able to remove the content early, but most of the time it seemed they found themselves overwhelmed with the sheer volume of fake accounts and misinformation and were unable to effectively remove it before it had done its damage. 

If they bothered to remove it at all.  

Zhang was a mid-level techie who was responsible for helping to protect democracies around the world, and she simply was not equipped. 

She was by no means alone, she is one of hundreds, but the fact is that they continue to be overwhelmed and false information and fake accounts remain prevalent on the pages of Facebook.