Art by Mike Sullivan
Oct. 22, 2021 2:55 PM PDT

It’s not often that major news organizations coordinate to sift through a large trove of leaked company documents and agree not to publish stories about them until a certain date. But in the world of news related to Facebook, these are extraordinary times.

Something similar happened in 2016 when the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists published financial leaks in an investigation called the Panama Papers, uncovering details of the global elite’s tax havens, and in 2013 after ex–National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden released top-secret documents, kicking off a storm of coverage in global newspapers about how the U.S. and other governments spy on citizens and organizations.

Now it’s Facebook’s turn.

Upcoming news stories based on thousands of Facebook documents—which whistleblower Frances Haugen worked to release to more than a dozen news organizations as diverse as the Associated Press, CNN, Le Monde, Reuters and the Fox Business network—aren’t likely to be as revelatory as those epic leaks of time past. For one, the Facebook documents were the basis for the series of impactful stories from the Wall Street Journal, which received them from Haugen months ago. Those pieces revealed how the company’s research showed Facebook’s products could be “toxic” for some teens and offered details about how there were internal concerns that the company wasn’t doing enough to stop human trafficking coordinated through its platform or to remove other dangerous content. The reporting led to a U.S. congressional hearing two weeks ago. But Haugen felt there were more stories to be told.

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