Harvard University assembled a team of prestigious experts and set them loose on the problem of Facebook cultivating and spreading disinformation. Then the Zuckerbergs gave Harvard University $500m. Then Harvard University shut the team down.
Dr. Joan Donovan, one of the world's leading experts on social media disinformation, says she ran into a wall of institutional resistance and eventual termination after she and her team at Harvard's Technology and Social Change Research Project (TASC) began analyzing thousands of documents exposing Facebook's knowledge of how the platform has caused significant public harm… In her whistleblower declaration, Donovan lays out in detail how she and her research team at Harvard's Kennedy School (HKS) came under sudden scrutiny from the school's dean, Douglas Elmendorf, and other Kennedy School leaders,after they started working on Haugen's Facebook Files – a cache Donovan describes as "the most important documents in the history of the internet."
From the declaration:
As Ms. Gibbs was interviewing me, one member of the Dean's Council, Elliot Schrage, the Former Head of Communication for Facebook and, from my experience, he is known in the misinformation research community as Facebook's "fixer" within academia, became increasingly and visibly agitated. During the interview portion of the meeting, Mr. Schrage was rocking in his
chair in a visibly agitated manner and raised his hand several times attempting to interject during the discussion. Throughout the audience questions portion of the event, Mr. Schrage monopolized the discussion by accusing me that my reading of the documents was inaccurate and that he disagreed with all prior discussion about Facebook. I tried to answer Mr. Schrage's
allegations, but he kept speaking out angrily. Eventually, [REDACTED], a member of the Dean's Council who introduced the session, had to intervene. Mr. Schrage's conduct was so overwhelming and disruptive that [REDACTED] was forced to raise her voice in an attempt to try and calm Mr. Schrage. It was tense, awkward, and embarrassing for everyone involved.
If Elmendorf and Harvard have their price, they can at least console themselves with the knowledge that everyone knows how big it is.