Frances Haugen took thousands of Facebook documents: This is how she did it

The company’s documents were available on its internal social network, which resembles the Facebook used by billions

(Washington Post illustration; Matt McClain/The Washington Post ; Facebook screenshots; iStock)

Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen left her job at the company earlier this year with thousands of pages of documents referencing a litany of societal harms.

Haugen didn’t have to rummage through filing cabinets or secretly make Xerox copies, like the famous whistleblowers of the past. In fact, the way Haugen obtained the documents is similar to the way billions of people around the world use Facebook every day. She simply browsed the company’s internal social network and took photos with her phone, according to her legal team.

The documents help illustrate the role the company played in helping fuel the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, the power wielded by CEO Mark Zuckerberg and the ripple effect of the social media network on countries around the world. The Washington Post is part of a consortium of news organizations that has reviewed the disclosures made to the Securities and Exchange Commission and provided to Congress in redacted form by Haugen’s legal counsel.

For nearly a month, Haugen has made headlines for her decision to blow the whistle on Facebook, testifying in front of Congress, appearing on “60 Minutes” and on the cover of Time Magazine. Her revelations have created a firestorm. And Facebook is reportedly considering a name change.

Here’s what you need to know.

Read the series: Facebook under fire

The Facebook Papers are a set of internal documents that were provided to Congress in redacted form by Frances Haugen’s legal counsel. The redacted versions were reviewed by a consortium of news organizations, including The Washington Post.

The trove of documents show how Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has, at times, contradicted, downplayed or failed to disclose company findings on the impact of its products and platforms.

The documents also provided new details of the social media platform’s role in fomenting the storming of the U.S. Capitol. An investigation by ProPublica and The Washington Post found that Facebook groups swelled with at least 650,000 posts attacking the legitimacy of Joe Biden’s victory between Election Day and Jan. 6.

Facebook engineers gave extra value to emoji reactions, including ‘angry,’ pushing more emotional and provocative content into users’ news feeds.

Read more from The Post’s investigation:

Key takeaways from the Facebook Papers

Frances Haugen took thousands of Facebook documents. This is how she did it.

How Facebook neglected the rest of the world, fueling hate speech and violence in India

How Facebook shapes your feed