The Atlantic Daily: Four Takeaways From the Facebook Papers

The documents offer an unprecedented look at the inner workings of one of the world’s most powerful companies. Here’s what you should know.

Blue gears moving with the Facebook reaction emojis around them
Illustration by Irene Suosalo

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Facebook is one of the most powerful forces in the world. Today we got an unprecedented glimpse into how the company operates through a trove of internal documents called the Facebook Papers.

There’s a lot to unpack—and this story isn’t over. I talked with Adrienne LaFrance and Ellen Cushing, two Atlantic writers who are covering the release of the documents, to distill four key takeaways from what we know so far.

1. Facebook employees want to help—but feel unheard.

“Again and again, the Facebook Papers show staffers sounding alarms about the dangers posed by the platform,” Adrienne writes. “They plead with leadership to do more. And again and again, staffers say, Facebook’s leaders ignore them.”

2. The company knows about its problems.

“A​​ccording to the documents, Facebook is aware that its products are being used to facilitate hate speech in the Middle East, violent cartels in Mexico, ethnic cleansing in Ethiopia, extremist anti-Muslim rhetoric in India, and sex trafficking in Dubai,” Ellen writes.

Or as Adrienne puts it: “What the world is seeing now, through the window provided by reams of internal documents, is that Facebook catalogs and studies the harm it inflicts on people. And then it keeps harming people anyway.”

3. Facebook’s issues are even worse in other countries.

“The Facebook we see [in the United States] is the platform at its best,” Ellen points out, because the company invests a disproportionate share of its moderation resources here and shares a common language and culture. “In the most vulnerable parts of the world … the trade-offs and mistakes that Facebook makes can have deadly consequences.”

4. Stay tuned for more.

Expect this story to evolve in the coming days, both Adrienne and Ellen warned me. We may be entering a whistleblower era for the social network, Ellen posited. “Congress got the same documents that all these journalists got, so it may lead to regulation.”

“Because [the size of the leak is] unprecedented, it’s hard to know this early what it means,” Adrienne told me. “But it’s big.”

Read our coverage of the Facebook Papers.

The rest of the news in three sentences:

(1) Moderna says its COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective for kids ages 6–11. (2) Sudan’s military took control in a coup. (3) Democrats are still working on a compromise for that trillion-dollar-plus spending bill that aims at funding much of President Joe Biden’s domestic social agenda.

Today’s Atlantic-approved activity:

Stop shopping. The supply chain is gunked up, and you don’t need so much junk anyway.

A break from the news:

Under threat of poaching, African elephants evolved tusklessness amazingly fast.


Every weekday evening, our editors guide you through the biggest stories of the day, help you discover new ideas, and surprise you with moments of delight. Subscribe to get this delivered to your inbox.