cover image Broken Code: Inside Facebook and the Fight to Expose Its Harmful Secrets

Broken Code: Inside Facebook and the Fight to Expose Its Harmful Secrets

Jeff Horwitz. Doubleday, $32.50 (336p) ISBN 978-0-385-54918-9

Journalist Horwitz’s debut expands his reporting for the Wall Street Journal on the “Facebook Files,” a series of damning documents leaked by whistleblower and former Facebook employee Frances Haugen, into an unsettling account of the social media platform’s misdeeds. Facebook has long prioritized growth over corporate responsibility and “integrity work” (moderating content and addressing ills caused by the platform), Horwitz contends, pointing to a 2016 internal memo claiming that the company’s ambition to connect the world justified its “questionable contact importing practices” and deliberately opaque privacy policies. Stories of executives bumbling their way through or outright ignoring issues within the company are breathtaking and troubling; for instance, after the BBC found that human traffickers in the Persian Gulf region were making sales over Instagram (which is owned by Facebook parent company Meta), Facebook only took substantive steps to root out the problem after Apple threatened to drop the platform from its app store. Horwitz’s reporting shines, and the company’s indifference in the face of atrocity outrages (Facebook’s U.S. executives shrugged off reports that Hindu nationalist groups in India were using the platform to incite violence against Muslim people). This convincingly makes the case that Facebook’s pursuit of growth at any cost has had disastrous offline consequences. (Nov.)