The Facebook Files

Podcast mini-series produced by The Wall Street Journal and Gimlet Media. Investigative reporting dives into an extensive array of internal Facebook documents, giving an unparalleled look inside the social media giant.

Facebook Inc. knows, in acute detail, that its platforms are riddled with flaws that cause harm, often in ways only the company fully understands. That is the central finding of a Wall Street Journal series, based on a review of internal Facebook documents, including research reports, online employee discussions and drafts of presentations to senior management.

Time and again, the documents show, Facebook’s researchers have identified the platform’s ill effects. Time and again, despite congressional hearings, its own pledges and numerous media exposés, the company didn’t fix them. The documents offer perhaps the clearest picture thus far of how broadly Facebook’s problems are known inside the company, up to the chief executive himself.

The Facebook Files, Part 1: The Whitelist

In our first podcast episode, WSJ’s Jeff Horwitz explains how high-profile users from celebrities to politicians are shielded from the site’s rules and protected from enforcement measures. The company does this in secret, even as CEO Mark Zuckerberg says publicly that all users are treated equally.

By Jeff Horwitz. Sept. 13, 2021. Full Transcript

The Facebook Files, Part 2: ‘We Make Body Image Issues Worse’

In the second podcast episode in our investigative series, we turn to research that Facebook has kept private: its internal studies on the effects of Instagram, one of its core products, on teen mental health. WSJ’s Georgia Wells details the company’s findings, which show that Instagram can be harmful for young users, particularly teen girls. Plus, Instagram head Adam Mosseri explains why he thinks there’s no “silver bullet” for this problem.

By Georgia Wells, Jeff Horwitz and Deepa Seetharaman. Sept 14, 2021. Full Transcript

The Facebook Files, Part 3: ‘This Shouldn’t Happen on Facebook’

In the third podcast episode of our investigative series based on an extensive array of internal Facebook documents, we look at a persistent problem on the platform: human trafficking. WSJ’s Justin Scheck describes documents showing that Facebook has closely studied how human traffickers use the platform to ensnare victims and advertise illegal sex services. The documents also show Facebook’s response to these findings, which is often inadequate or nothing at all. We also hear from Patricia Wanja Kimani, a Kenyan woman who was trafficked to Saudi Arabia after responding to a job post on Facebook.

By Keach Hagey and Jeff Horwitz. Sept. 15, 2021. Full Transcript

The Facebook Files, Part 4: The Outrage Algorithm

In the fourth podcast episode of our investigative series based on an extensive array of internal Facebook documents, we explore the fallout of a major algorithm change the company made in 2018. The documents outline how an emphasis on engagement incentivized the spread of divisive, sensational content and misinformation. WSJ’s Keach Hagey and Jeff Horwitz explain how attempts from within the company to undo some of the damage were often thwarted.

By Justin Scheck, Newley Purnell and Jeff Horwitz. Sept 16, 2021. Full Transcript

Video: Ask WSJ: A Look Inside the Facebook Files

The Wall Street Journal has produced an unparalleled look inside Facebook’s operations that offers an extensive analysis of the social-media giant’s failings — and its unwillingness or inability to rectify them. Join editor Brad Reagan in conversation with reporters Jeff Horwitz, Deepa Seetharaman, Justin Scheck and Georgia Wells as they discuss their findings and answer your questions about the investigation. [Video runtime 44 minutes]

The related Wall Street Journal articles for this series can be found at:

  1. Facebook Says Its Rules Apply to All. Company Documents Reveal a Secret Elite That’s Exempt
  2. Facebook Knows Instagram Is Toxic for Many Teen Girls, Company Documents Show
  3. Facebook Tried to Make Its Platform a Healthier Place. It Got Angrier Instead.
  4. Facebook Employees Flag Drug Cartels and Human Traffickers. The Company’s Response Is Weak, Documents Show.