The Media Research Center loves Facebook whistleblowers who are as right-wing (if not more so) than it is. Liberal whistleblowers? Not so much -- to the point that it followed Facebook's script in an attempt to discredit her.
By Terry Krepel Posted 2/3/2022
The MRC has a bad habit of lionizing far-right extremists who purport to be whistleblowers against the "big tech" companies they hate. Alexander Hall found another one in a March 29 post and worked to portray her as a "victim" of "Big Tech":
Facebook whistleblower Cassandra Spencer wrote an exposé about the platform with damning claims of anti-conservative meddling.
The whistleblower who had contracted at Facebook had her life turned upside down after exposing Big Tech bias against conservatives at Facebook. Her tell-all book, “Impact: How I Went behind Enemy Lines in Our Struggle against the Far Left,'' made some devastating allegations.
“[A]fter a few weeks on the job in Texas, she said she noticed that some profiles and pages were secretly marked in a way that would reduce the reach of their live videos,” Fox News reported. “She said in the following weeks she saw a pattern, and she only noticed such flags on pages belonging to conservatives, not to any liberals. And that they were hidden from the account holders.”
Spencer then reportedly reached out to guerilla journalism outlet Project Veritas and began to wear a hidden camera. Facebook reportedly fired her shortly afterward.
Hall did admit that Facebook said Spencer lost her job because she chose "to perform a stunt for Project Veritas." But Hall didn't mention how far-right Spencer is. The New Republic wrote of Spencer's later role in Project Veritas "Gold Mine" project, in which operatives tried to embed themselves in the campaigns of Democratic candidates as moles during the 2020 election:
Cassandra Spencer, the Gold Mine operative who targeted the Warren and Sanders campaignsand, based on an internal review of Biden staffers and volunteers, shadowed one of their campaign events just before the Iowa caucusescalled herself a “Proud Boys’ Girl” and retweeted Michelle Malkin saying “God Bless the #ProudBoys.” That means that, of Project Veritas’s four infiltrators, at least two declared support for the group.
that seems relevant, given the Proud Boys' role in the violent Jan. 6 Capitol riot. But Hall didn't think so.
Two days later, Kayla Sargent gushed that "Former Facebook employee Cassandra Spencer wrote an exposé that alleged anti-conservative bias within the company." But she too failed to mention that Spencer is a Proud Boys fangirl.
In other words, Spencer is yet another of the far-rightextremists the MRC has tried to mainstream to perpetuate its failed narrative that "big tech" is exclusively "censoring" conservatives solely for saying mainstream conservative things.
A couple months later, the MRC latched onto a different Facebook whistleblower whose narrative also hewed close to its own. Alexander Hall wrote in a May 28 post:
Alleged Facebook insider Morgan Kahmann went public in an interview with Project Veritas to reportedly expose Facebook’s system to crack down on COVID vaccine criticism.
“One of two Facebook Insiders featured in Project Veritas’ recent #ExposeFacebook series that revealed the company’s censorship of vaccine concerns on a global scale has officially come out of the shadows,” guerilla journalism outlet Project Veritas reported May 27. Project Veritas added: “Kahmann was able to secure additional internal Facebook documents before his suspension that confirm the ‘vaccine hesitancy’ algorithm is live and being implemented globally across Facebook and Instagram platforms.”
In the interview with Project Veritas founder James O'Keefe, Kahmann explained: "Facebook uses classifiers in their algorithms to determine certain content to be what they call ‘vaccine hesitant,’ or they call it ‘vaccine hesitancy.’ And without the user's knowledge, they assign a score to these comments that's called a ‘VH Score,' ‘Vaccine Hesitancy Score.’ And based on that score, will demote or leave the comment alone, depending on the content within the comment."
Kahmann also suggested that Facebook can hide posts that have a high “vaccine hesitant” rating for violations such as “indirect discouragement,” such as describing the side effects felt after getting injected with a COVID vaccination.
Neither Hall nor Kahmann explained why it was a bad thing for false claims that impact public health during a pandemic to be flagged.
Hall returned in a June 8 post to confer right-wing victimhood status on Kahmann:
Reported Facebook insider Morgan Kahmann said he was fired from the platform after he exposed its “Vaccine Hesitancy” algorithm. However, Kahmann raised money for his family using Christian crowdfunding platform GiveSendGo in response.
Kahmann made his stand by sacrificing his career, and his supporters made their own stand by offering money to support his growing family.
Kahmann said that he knew that coming forward meant taking an incredible risk.
Kahmann explained: “I think that the main reason why people don’t want to come out [as whistleblowers] -- because what if I, you know, I have two kids, I have my wife, and if I lose my job, it’s like ‘what do I do?’ But that’s less of a concern to me.”
In a July 26 "report card," the MRC cited Kahmann's claims as evidence that Facebook "has appeared to double down" on "censoring discussions regarding COVID-19 and vaccines."
Meanwhile, Slate reported that Kahmann wasn't much of a whistleblower: "His leaks didn’t really amount to a bombshell since Facebook has aggressively publicized its efforts to suppress vaccine misinformation, which includes reducing the visibility of misleading COVID-19 content; the documents Kahmann released more or less go into the minutiae of how the platform is implementing its policy. However, he’s now done interviews with Tucker Carlson on Fox News and Alex Jones on Infowars purporting that Facebook is running a shadow operation to hide the truth about the vaccines, which lends itself to anti-vax narratives." Still, Kahmann cashed in on his GiveSendGo crowdfunding campaign to the tune of more than $508,000.
A whistleblower the MRC hates
By contrast, the MRC has an issue with Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen: After all, she's been much more effective in drawing attention to issues with the company than the MRC has been, despite years of spreading its bogus partisan victimhood narrative. So rather than embrace Haugen, it has attacked her. Autumn Johnson complained about her effectiveness in an Oct. 4 post:
Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen has called on the government to regulate social mediaand the left is following suit.
In an interview with “60 Minutes,” Haugen, a data scientist and former Facebook employee who worked to combat so-called “misinformation,” said the platform bears some responsibility for the Jan. 6 riot.
“Facebook, over and over again, has shown it chooses profit over safety,” Haugen said. She will testify before Congress this week and hopes that her testimony will propel the government to put regulations in place to govern Facebook.
After the interview, some media personalities on the left called on the government to force Facebook to censor more content in the name of “safety” and public health.
"The problem is this is the biggest platform. This is the platform where people get their news across the globe," Kara Swisher, podcast host and social commentator, told MSNBC. "They're the biggest and therefore, they have to be the best at safety. Not 'we tried.'"
The next day, Johnson lashed out at Haugen for not being conservative:
Frances Haugen, the Facebook whistleblower, is a far-left activist and AOC donor, The Daily Wire reported.
In an interview with “60 Minutes,” Haugen, a data scientist and former Facebook employee who worked to combat so-called “misinformation,” said the platform bears some responsibility for the Jan. 6 riot.
“Facebook, over and over again, has shown it chooses profit over safety,” Haugen said. She said she hopes that her testimony will encourage the government to put more regulations on Facebook.
According to The Daily Wire, Haugen has a record of donating to far-left politicians like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
“She is working with Democrat operatives to roll out her complaint and has the same lawyers as the anonymous Ukraine “whistleblower” whose allegations led to Donald Trump’s impeachment, but who reportedly turned out to be then-Vice President Joe Biden’s top advisor on the country.”
She also seems to have a history of accusing her employers of being biased, saying “if we don’t build with an eye towards inclusion, we can end up enshrining bias.”
In 2015, she reportedly accused Google of not being inclusive enough of women in the workplace.
Of course, the MRC seems to prefer its "big tech" whistleblowers to be right-wing nutjobs like Spencer whose backgrounds actively undermine their claims. By contrast, the MRC hasn't proven Haugen wrong about anything.
Another Oct. 5 post, by Catherine Salgado, complained that Haugen's testimony at a congressional hearing gave "another opportunity for the left to call for online censorship." Salgado also complained that Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar claimed at the hearing "that lack of censorship by Facebook during the 2020 election process facilitated the 'Jan. 6 insurrection' at the Capitol." Note the scare quotes around "insurrection," as if the MRC no longer believes what happened that day was even remotely serious.
Mark Finkelstein contributed yet another Oct. 5 post that sought to get the right-wing Facebook narrative back on track:
An ironic political dynamic surrounds Facebook. On the one hand, the company and its leaders tilt hard to the left. More than 91% of employee contributions during the 2020 cycle went to Democrats. Going back to 2018, CEO Mark Zuckerberg donated $100 million to a "pro-immigration" group. And COO Sheryl Sandberg donated $400,000 to the Hillary Victory Fund.
But while conservatives have their beefs with Facebook, by far the fiercest criticism of Facebook comes from the left, which accuses the platform of not having done enough to censor pro-Trump postings and what it sees as right-wing conspiracy theories.
Within the liberal media, Morning Joe has been a leader of the anti-Facebook gang. The show renewed its crusade this morning, prompted by allegations by former Facebook employee Frances Haugen, who testified before a Senate committee Tuesday.
It's so cute how Finkelstein isn't pretending his fellow right-wingers aren't as "anti-Facebook" as "the left."
Tim Graham rehashed those same talking points in his Oct. 6 column, as if trying to demonstrate that right-wingers were anti-Facebook before being anti-Facebook was made cool by Haugen:
It does not matter one iota that Facebook employees donated 90 percent of their political money to the Democrats in the last cycle. Or that Zuckerberg donated $400 million to a “civic integrity” group that funded election monitors and health measures at the polls in 2020. It doesn’t matter how many Facebook posts they censored to please the Left before the election. The outcomes weren’t favorable enough to the Democrats
Liberal journalists compared the harm of Facebook to smoking, and Zuckerberg to a tobacco CEO. The team at Morning Joe used the CEO analogy after touting a poll that Zuckerberg now is less popular than Donald Trump and Donald Trump Jr.
Both sides are angry. Conservatives don’t like how much they are censored on Facebook. Liberals don’t like how conservatives are never censored enough for their tastes.
CNN has gone so fiercely after Facebook in recent days you might think Facebook was somehow like Fox News Channel multiplied by 100. They went live to a hearing on October 5 where Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen ripped her ex-employer as “one of the most urgent threats to the American people,” that they drive children to suicide, stoke division, and weaken democracy.
The Democrats want a dramatic content crackdown.
Graham is lying, of course. Nobody is trying to censor "conservative" content -- unless he's claiming that election fraud conspiracy theories and COVID vaccine misinformation are mainstream "conservative" values. But the MRC has a narrative to push, however fraudulent, and Salgado did her duty in trying to advance it in an Oct. 6 post:
Facebook “whistleblower” Frances Haugen is being treated by the left and media as a hero. But The Wall Street Journal, Glenn Greenwald and Ben Shapiro, to name a few, have blasted Haugen’s push against free speech online.
Haugen’s critics see this social media scandal as the Democrats’ latest ploy to arrogate more censorship power to themselves. New revelations reported that Haugen donated to multiple leftist groups and was a member of the team that censored the Hunter Biden laptop story while at Facebook.
An opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal, the very source of The Facebook Files, and written by The Editorial Board, is titled, “Facebook Needs to Empower Parents, Not Censor Political Speech.” The Journal agreed with Haugen’s critiques, but added, “This is a problem that can’t be solved by government.” The Journal advocated instead giving users and parents more control. The Journal objected to the Democrat focus on alleged “misinformation.” “They’ve proposed eliminating Section 230 liability protection for algorithms or requiring Facebook to submit its algorithms to regulators for review. Just what we needa Bureau of Algorithms,” The Journal observed drily.
Glenn Greenwald slammed both Haugen and her leftist, anti-free speech fans in his newsletter. “ Much is revealed by who is bestowed hero status by the corporate media,” Greenwald warned.
Facebook’s civic integrity team, of which Haugen was a part, censored the Hunter Biden laptop reports during the 2020 election. The team was dissolved after Biden was declared president, when Haugen reportedly became discontented with her job. Furthermore, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki’s PR firm is reportedly representing Haugen. Bill Burton, former Obama deputy press secretary, and his consulting firm are also reportedly giving Haugen “strategic guidance.” Haugen is purportedly a leftist activist and AOC donor whose lawyers also worked with the “whistleblower” who was the catalyst for Donald Trump’s impeachment. The Senate hearing wherein Haugen testified included multiple calls from Democrats for more online censorship.
By the way, the MRC had no problem with Haugen's revelations as reported by the Journal before it was revealed that Haugen was the source. A Sept. 16 post by Salgado, for instance, hyped how the Journal "reviewed Facebook research and documentation and said the social media giant 'knows' Instagram is toxic for teen girls, and a Sept. 20 post by Johnson noted Facebook's response to the Journal's "deep-dive investigation into the platform and some of its practices."
Johnson took another stab at reclaiming the narrative from Haugen in an Oct. 9 post: "While much of the recent media attention regarding Facebook whistleblowers has gone to former employee and liberal donor Frances Haugen, it's worth noting that she wasn't the first former employee who has warned about the company."
The attacks continued in ways both subtle and overt. An Oct. 13 post by Autumn Johnson and an Oct. 14 post by Catherine Salgado both put "whistleblower" in scare quotes when referring to Haugen; Johnson kept up the scare quotes in complaining that Haugen "called for more government regulation to censor 'misinformation,'" while Salgado huffed that "Haugen has multiple ties to leftist individuals and causes."
Joseph Vazquez went full fearmonger on Haugen in an Oct. 22 post that added his hatred of rich liberals into the mix:
One of the most notorious liberal billionaire mega-donors in the United States is reportedly aiding Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen, who advocated for more Big Tech censorship.
Pierre Omidyar the founder of eBay is using his philanthropic organization Luminate to handle “Haugen’s press and government relations in Europe,” according to Politico. In addition, Omidyar’s foundation “last year gave $150,000 to Whistleblower Aid, the nonprofit organization that is providing Haugen’s legal representation and advice.”
Recent reporting revealed that Haugen donated to multiple leftist groups and was a member of the team that censored the Hunter Biden laptop story while at Facebook, according to The Post Millennial. Haugen reportedly also has a history of donating to far-left Democrats like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). She is being represented by the “same lawyers as the anonymous Ukraine ‘whistleblower’ whose allegations led to Donald Trump’s impeachment,” according to The Daily Wire.
Haugen’s ties to Omidyar should concern every American who’s wary of the left controlling the content that flows on Big Tech platforms. The causes include those that want to censor conservatives.
The next day, Johnson returned to surprisingly portray Haugen somewhat positively (and, even more surprisingly, didn't put "whistleblower" in scare quotes again or mention her alleged liberal ties) in an apparent attempt to make Facebook the real bad guy:
Employees and pundits have accused Facebook of prioritizing profit over safety. The platform has been criticized for allowing so-called “misinformation” over the COVID-19 pandemic to remain online. Some want the platform to do more to regulate content online.
Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen argued government intervention is the answer.
“No one at Facebook is malevolent,” Haugen said. “But the incentives are misaligned, right? Like, Facebook makes more money when you consume more content. People enjoy engaging with things that elicit an emotional reaction. And the more anger that they get exposed to, the more they interact and the more they consume.”
"Misinformation, angry content, is enticing to people and keeps them on the platform," she said.
Johnson also uncritically portrayed Haugen's accusations in an Oct. 26 post that also similarly attacked Facebook.
Salgado, however, was still in scare-quote attack mode, whining in a Nov. 1 post that a proposed British "online safety" law "reportedly follows the suggestions of Facebook 'whistleblower' Frances Haugen. Haugen lauded the bill’s approach as 'world-leading,' according to Olson on Bloomberg Opinion. Haugen was discovered to be a leftist activist with ties to prominent Democrats. Haugen also has openly advocated for increased social media censorship." Salgado similarly attacked Haugen over the UK law in posts on Nov. 3 and Nov. 9. There was more:
Salgado complained in a Nov. 11 post that "Social media algorithms and online free speech have been a major political issue ever since leftist activist turned Facebook 'whistleblower' Frances Haugen began her revelations."
A post the same day by Johnson avoided the scare quotes but complained that Haugen "has been an advocate for more regulation and censorship online." Johnson, however, returned the scare quotes to "whistleblower" in a Nov. 14 post.
Salgado grumbled on Nov. 19 that "Democrat [sic] U.S. senators and leftist activist turned Facebook 'whistleblower' Frances Haugen have also called for more aggressive censorship of alleged 'misinformation' online recently."
Salgado fully melted down in a Nov. 24 post when Haugen made the cover of Time magazine:
TIME magazine may need to take some time off after defending a censorship advocate. Leftist activist turned Facebook “whistleblower” Frances Haugen has become internationally famous for allegedly taking on Big Tech, and calling for more censorship and oppressive government regulation along the way.
TIME magazine tweeted an image of its new issue cover on Monday, depicting Frances Haugen. The title read, “The Making of A Whistleblower: What Drove Frances Haugen to Sound the Alarm About FacebookAnd What Happens Next.” TIME promoted Haugen as a “wunderkind,” and noted how she considered herself an educator rather than an activist, eager to inspire young people to “push back against” harms caused by social media.
The “whistleblower” told TIME she joined Facebook specifically to work on “misinformation,” because she “lost” a friend to “online misinformation” leading up to the 2016 presidential election. Haugen said Facebook should “intervene sooner,” indicating that the platform should stifle alleged “misinformation” before it even reaches an audience. Haugen said “the idea that George Soros runs the world economy” was among the “conspiracy theories” her friend believed at the time. It is interesting to note that George Soros said in 2019 he is trying to “bend” the “arc of history.”
TIME gushed praise for “Haugen’s atypical personality, glittering academic background, strong moral convictions, robust support networks and self-confidence.” What the magazine did not emphasize was Haugen’s questionable past and present connections and censorship push. The long article also buried Haugen’s questionable ties to leftist billionaire eBay founder Pierre Omidyar.
Likening anyone to right-wing bogeyman Soros is apparently the biggest insult that Salgado can come up with -- never mind that Martin Luther King Jr. also said something similar.
Salgado used a Dec. 1 post to cheer how a researcher for the right-wing Heritage Foundation used MRC research to attack 'big tech" -- and to take another swipe at Haugen -- highlighting how the Heritage researcher "explained how she worked for Facebook like leftist activist 'whistleblower' Frances Haugen" but that her "viewpoint on Big Tech was very different from censorship-supporting Haugen’s, however."
Salgado put "whistleblower" in scare quotes yet again when referencing Haugen in a Dec. 9 post. Brian Bradley did the same the next day, adding:
But was Haugen really a whistleblower? After she resigned from Facebook in May, The Wall Street Journal revealed a trove of files, provided by Haugen, which she portrayed as evidence of Facebook’s indifference to so-called right-wing “misinformation” that she perceived, according to Time magazine, as implicating national elections and contributing to the Jan. 6 Capitol Hill Riot. Haugen also called for increased online censorship during a recent Senate hearing.
The public emergence of Haugen’s left-skewed, Orwellian talking points could motivate more whistleblowers to exhibit faux-courage by resigning from their companies and peddling the liberal narrative that curbing free speech is necessary for Americans’ safety. The introduction of financial incentives in Rep. Jan Schakowsky’s (D-IL) FTC Whistleblower Act could also motivate more “whistleblowers” like Haugen to cast blame on social media companies for supposed pro-right-wing bias.
Salgado more fully lashed out at Haugen in a scare-quote-laden Dec. 21 post, pushing her "leftist" talking points and suggesting she came forward for the money:
When Facebook “whistleblower” Frances Haugen came on as a guest of leftist, pro-censorship New York Times podcast host Kara Swisher’s show, Haugen had one core question related to Facebook’s “misinformation” efforts: “Will they go far enough?”
Swisher claimed that Facebook shouldn’t be “choking people in the dark,” which Haugen agreed to, during the podcast. Haugen also advocated for a “free market of ideas” online. In contrast, Haugen said that Facebook subsidizes hate to make money. Her solution? More censorship.
“Facebook has done a really good job of distracting us with the censorship debate,” Haugen complained. She doesn’t appear to be all too concerned about Facebook’s biased censorship, believing discussion of the issue is an obstacle to the changes for which she advocates.
Haugen admitted to Swisher that members of her “comms team” had previously worked for Democratic campaigns and that the nonprofit Luminate, a network member of leftist eBay founder and billionaire Pierre Omidyar, had paid “operational” expenses for her. Yet Swisher mocked reports pointing to the questionable nature of Haugen’s politically leftist advisors.
Haugen also denied that she was incentivized by a potentially large financial reward for her “whistleblowing,” though Haugen then mused over how she would invest the money if she received it. The “whistleblower” even said that she would work for Facebook again if offered, because she still believes its work is important. Haugen wants to start a movement of young people who drive “rituals of governance” around Big Tech.
MRC follows Facebook's script
But it appears that the MRC's repeated "leftist" attacks on Haugen were not only playing into Facebook's agenda, they may have been done at Facebook's request. The Wall Street Journal reported:
The day after former Facebook employee and whistleblower Frances Haugen went public in October, the company’s team in Washington started working the phones.
To lawmakers and advocacy groups on the right, according to people familiar with the conversations, their message was that Ms. Haugen was trying to help Democrats. Within hours, several conservative news outlets published stories alleging Ms. Haugen was a Democratic activist.
Later, Facebook lobbyists warned Democratic staffers that Republicans were focused on the company’s decision to ban expressions of support for Kyle Rittenhouse, the teenager who killed two people during unrest in Kenosha, Wis., and who was later acquitted of homicide and other charges.
The company’s goal, according to Republicans and Democrats familiar with the company’s outreach, was to muddy the waters, divide lawmakers along partisan lines and forestall a cross-party alliance that was emerging to enact tougher rules on social-media companies in general and Facebook in particular.
The Journal further reported that after Haugen's "60 Minutes" appearance, "the company and its representatives spread word among lawmakers’ offices, advocacy groups and others that she had partisan motives, according to the people familiar with those conversations," and that the Haugen-bashing articles that appeared in right-wing media "variously called Ms. Haugen 'the frontwoman of a PR campaign pushed by the Democratic party,' a 'leftist activist' and someone who is 'part of a broader Democratic initiative.'" -- which is pretty much how the MRC has portrayed her. The Journal also noted that "Facebook representatives alleged in conversations with reporters that she was a proxy for" Omidyar -- which matches the MRC's attacks as well.
Salgado wrote a Dec. 30 post on the Journal article exposing Facebook's use of right-wing media to attack Haugen. But rather than admitting the MRC got played by the organization it's trying to destroy, Salgado simply summarized the Journal's bombshell quickly and without comment, while still repeating those Facebook-directed attack lines:
Facebook has done everything since “whistleblower” Frances Haugen’s revelations except apologize. The company changed its name, denied massive problems, and reportedly even sold different narratives to politicians from different ends of the political spectrum.
The Wall Street Journal, which originally broke the “Facebook Files” revelations from leftist "whistleblower” Frances Haugen, in a new piece that Facebook had intentionally depicted Haugen as a leftist activist to rouse Republicans.
Salgado uniroinically linked to two earlier attack pieces on Haugen's purported "leftist" sympathies, seemingly unaware that this was evidence of the MRC's active participation in Facebook's smear campaign.
And then -- even knowing she's doing Facebook's bidding by making political attacks on Haugen -- Salgado still continued to hype that tainted "leftist" narrative. She huffed in a Jan. 7 post that "Leftist activist turned Facebook 'whistleblower' Frances Haugen has been touring the world to advise lawmakers." She then rehashed the Omidyar talking point in a Jan. 18 post:
Recently, leftist activist turned Facebook “whistleblower” Frances Haugen admitted that she had received monetary aid from the nonprofit Luminate, an Omidyar Network member. While the Tech Oversight Project reportedly strongly opposes Big Tech-funded groups and lobbyists, and seeks antitrust action from lawmakers, the project’s ties to Omidyar should raise concerns for pro-free speech advocates.
Salgado is clearly not afraid to look like a slave to manufactured talking points -- even after they've been exposed as manufactured.