An anonymous former employee of Facebook’s controversial Trending News team has authored a scathing essay in The Guardian, alleging that the team is crippled by sexism, poor management and that most of the people who have quit the job in the last two years, including herself, have been women. The former employee, who writes that she worked as a contractor on Facebook’s Trending News team, claims that working for the social media giant was “the most toxic work experience of my life.” She said sexism — among other issues, like favoritism and intimidation — plagued the entire team, but had particularly negative effects on the women who worked on Trending News. Facebook’s Trending News section has come under fire in recent weeks after several reports in which former employees have spoken out alleging that many of the trending stories are actually selected by humans instead of Facebook’s algorithm, and that there was systematic bias toward conservative news.
The anonymous ex-employee disputed the reports’ claims about conservative news suppression, but took aim at the department’s treatment of women. “Contrary to what Sheryl Sandberg preaches in her Lean In movement, women on the team are rarely encouraged to speak up,” she writes. Moreover, she alleges, women’s voices are actually silenced. “I often found that when I reported a problem with the Trending tool or a discrepancy in the guidelines, my claims were dismissed,” she writes in the essay. “When a man would report the same problem, he would be congratulated for noticing the problem and actions would be taken to fix it. This silencing was devastating. I found myself speaking up less and less, until I got to a point where I no longer reported any problems or errors I encountered.” She wrote that of the 15 people who have quit the job since 2014, the year the project launched, 10 of the workers have been women, herself included. She went on to allege a litany of other grievances against Facebook, including why she says workers felt they were routinely punished by being given overnight shifts.
Prior to publishing the essay, The Guardian reached out to Facebook for comment on the claims. Facebook disputed the accusations in a lengthy statement. “Facebook provides everyone – including contractors – with a respectful and safe working environment,” the company said in the statement. “Facebook does not tolerate unlawful harassment or any mistreatment in the workplace or in a work-related situation. We take any allegations of such very seriously, whether from employees or contractors, and investigate every complaint.”
Read the full essay and Facebook’s complete statement at The Guardian.