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In 2021, an internal document leak from the company then known as Facebook (now Meta Platforms, or Meta) showed it was aware of harmful societal effects from its platforms, yet persisted in prioritizing profit over addressing these harms. The leak, released by whistleblower Frances Haugen, resulted in reporting from The Wall Street Journal in September, as The Facebook Files series, as well as the Facebook Papers, by a consortium of news outlets the next month.
Primarily, the reports revealed that, based on internally-commissioned studies, the company was fully aware of negative impacts on teenage users of Instagram, and the contribution of Facebook activity to violence in developing countries. Other takeaways of the leak include the impact of the company's platforms on spreading false information, and Facebook's policy of promoting inflammatory posts. Furthermore, Facebook was fully aware that harmful content was being pushed through Facebook algorithms reaching young users. The types of content included posts promoting anorexia nervosa and self-harm photos.
In October 2021, Whistleblower Aid filed eight anonymous whistleblower complaints with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on behalf of Haugen alleging securities fraud by the company, after Haugen leaked the company documents the previous month. After publicly revealing her identity on 60 Minutes, Haugen testified before the U.S. Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security about the content of the leaked documents and the complaints. After the company renamed itself as Meta Platforms, Whistleblower Aid filed two additional securities fraud complaints with the SEC against the company on behalf of Haugen in February 2022.