Facebook imposes ‘legal hold’ asking employees to preserve internal documents since 2016

As its investigation proceeds, Facebook tells employees to “preserve internal documents and communications since 2016” related to its business. The social media tech giant is under investigation by U.S lawmakers after a whistle-blower provided evidence that the company deliberately ignored harmful impacts of misinformation and body image issues for teenagers on its platforms like Instagram and Facebook.

The company’s internal email, obtained by The New York Times states:

“As you are probably aware, we’re currently the focus of extensive media coverage based on a swath of internal documents,” Facebook said in the email to employees. “As is often the case following this kind of reporting, a number of inquiries from governments and legislative bodies have been launched into the company’s operations.”


New legal hold is not applicable on WhatsApp, Spark AR, and other aspects of Facebook’s businesses

Although the company’s spokeswoman confirmed the legal hold, she did not elaborate on the reason for such a request. But the NYT says that the email asked the employees to preserve everything since January 1, 2016, and they are advised to preserve encrypted messages as well. It also tells them to they should not discuss or post about the legal hold anywhere in the workplace.

However, other aspects of Facebook’s business are not under legal hold. “WhatsApp, its messaging service; Spark AR, its augmented reality studio; and the New Product Experimentation group, an internal incubator, were excluded from the legal hold.”

The report notes that this is not the first time the social media tech giant has issued a legal hold. During the FTC investigation in 2020, the company barred employees from discussing issues related to the litigation, and it tried to prevent employee leaks by making internal groups focused on platform and election safety, private. These measures are considered as attempts to cover up issues and to prevent scrutiny.

“These are the actions of a company attempting to resist scrutiny, not embrace transparency,” Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat of Connecticut who has led a Senate subcommittee inquiry into Facebook, wrote in a letter to Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive about the action.

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