Whistleblower alleges Meta allows sanctioned individuals to stay on platforms
Joohn Choe, a Facebook contractor, filed two whistleblower complaints alleging that Meta allows the accounts of sanctioned individuals to remain on its platforms. According to a March 10 article in The Washington PostChoe has filed a complaint with the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Treasury Department and a separate complaint with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
The complaint filed with the DOJ and the Treasury Department alleges that there are a “multitude of sanctioned entities and individuals who…maintain a strong presence on Facebook and Instagram” and that “Facebook’s parent company, Meta , engaged in “reckless or willful” violations of US sanctions law by permitting the accounts. One such sanctioned individual is “Aleksandr Zaldostanov, leader of a pro-Putin biker gang” according to the article, Zaldostanov posted posts on Facebook that “disparage the Ukrainian president and push lies about the war”.
“A former doctor known by his nickname, ‘The Surgeon,’ Zaldostanov has been on the US government’s sanctions list since 2014, amid allegations that he helped Russian troops confiscate weapons during the invasion of Russia. Crimea by the country,” the article reports.
In his complaints, Choe alleges that the accounts “enabled users to cultivate global legitimacy and spread Russian propaganda.” Additionally, Choe’s complaints “identify other publications appearing to recruit fighters and solicit funds to support pro-Russian separatists, which some legal experts say may violate U.S. sanctions laws, as well as rules from Facebook”. Choe was hired as a contractor for Facebook “to study extremism on the platforms after the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol.” Its complaint to the SEC alleges that Meta “misled investors”.
According to The post office“Choe is seeking whistleblower protections from the SEC.”
Choe said The post office that “he decided to go public with complaints after Russia invaded Ukraine, motivated by fears that Facebook accounts had helped Russian President Vladimir Putin create a narrative to justify the war”. He said “Facebook knowingly aids and abets the information war that Russia is waging.” The messages “[legitimize] pretext for this war,” Choe said. Its complaints also identify Instagram and Facebook pages linked to other individuals and entities on the US sanctions list.
The article notes that most of Choe’s allegations “run into a murky area of the law. Experts say there has been little government action to clarify whether social media companies have a legal duty to remove the accounts and posts of many people and organizations under sanctions. Limiting communications from those subject to sanctions could violate laws designed to protect free speech.
Meta spokeswoman Dani Lever said, “This allegation is false – we are committed to complying with US sanctions laws and treating such individuals and entities as we are required to under US law.”
Choe’s complaints ask government agencies “to investigate whether the company should be fined for violating sanctions, which [Choe’s] According to the legal team, this could represent tens of millions of dollars. The article also notes that Choe “may be eligible for a monetary reward” since filing a complaint with the SEC’s Whistleblower Program, which allows qualified whistleblowers to receive a monetary reward of 10-30% of funds. that the government recovers when the total exceeds $1 million. The SEC considers a number of factors to determine the exact percentage of a whistleblower award.
According to the article, “Choe began notifying Facebook officials about sanctioned groups using the platforms in August 2021…He compiled a report, called ‘Project Denim,’ outlining how the Belarusian regime monitored Facebook posts. people, using interactions such as ‘likes’ as evidence of ‘extremism’ to arrest government critics. The report documented Belarusian secret police operating a network through Facebook and Instagram to coordinate arrests and intimidate activists. Emails reviewed by The post office show that Choe sent the Denim Project report to project supervisors “and later that month escalated his findings in emails to Facebook officials, including Miranda Sissions, director of human rights. Facebook man”.
Lever said “the matter has been pursued internally,” but “Choe says Facebook took no action on the accounts, which were still active on Facebook and Instagram as of Tuesday afternoon.” He said The post office: “This is a failure of due diligence on a large scale, a massive systemic scale.”
Choe then turned to the nonprofit organization Whistleblower Aid, which filed the two complaints “in December regarding activity in Belarus with the Justice and Treasury Departments. Months later, a day after the arrival of Russian tanks in Ukraine, Choe and his lawyers filed a lawsuit focused on sanctions violations in Ukraine.
Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen also filed her whistleblower complaints with the SEC, alleging the company misrepresented to investors its efforts to combat misinformation. The approach to filing complaints with the SEC is based on the new legal theory that “Facebook violates U.S. securities laws by misleading the public and shareholders about its handling of criminal and illegal content on the site. This theory has been deployed by several other SEC whistleblowers over the past few years,” WNN Reporting States.
Read The Washington Post article here.
Read more Facebook news at WNN.