Gregory (Greg) Keating, Member of the Firm in the Employment, Labor & Workforce Management practice, in the firm’s Boston office, was quoted in The Wall Street Journal, in “The Facebook Whistleblower, Frances Haugen: Does the Law Protect Her?” by Laura Kusisto and Mengqi Sun. (Read the full version – subscription required.)

Following is an excerpt:

The former Facebook Inc. employee who gathered documents that formed the foundation of The Wall Street Journal’s Facebook Files series faces an uncertain legal landscape as she speaks publicly about the social-media company’s practices, said attorneys who specialize in federal whistleblower laws.

Frances Haugen, a former product manager hired to help protect against election interference on Facebook, said she decided to go public with her allegations to prompt change at the company. Ms. Haugen testified before Congress on Tuesday. 

Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen detailed the internal documents she gathered showing negative impacts from the company’s products and urged lawmakers to consider tougher regulations.

Ms. Haugen has told the Journal that she went to the job at Facebook hoping to help it fix its weaknesses. Ultimately, she said she felt the company put growth and user engagement ahead of what it knew through its own research about its platforms’ spread of misinformation, ill effects on teenagers and other problems.

A Facebook representative told the Senate that the company won’t retaliate against the whistleblower for speaking to Congress but hasn’t addressed how it will respond to Ms. Haugen’s discussions with federal regulators and the press. 

Facebook didn’t respond to a request for comment. Previously, a Facebook spokesman said: “Every day our teams have to balance protecting the right of billions of people to express themselves openly with the need to keep our platform a safe and positive place. We continue to make significant improvements to tackle the spread of misinformation and harmful content. To suggest we encourage bad content and do nothing is just not true.”

What kind of legal protections are available to whistleblowers? 

Ms. Haugen has sought whistleblower protection from the Securities and Exchange Commission, which would help protect her from legal claims by Facebook for any information that she provides to regulators, lawyers said. …

Lawyers said it isn’t entirely clear if the protections from legal action or other forms of retaliation for talking to Congress apply to former employees. Ms. Haugen resigned from Facebook in April.

And attorneys who represent whistleblowers said there could be greater legal exposure for those who go public with their concerns, rather than remain anonymous outside of their contacts with regulators. 

Gregory Keating, a whistleblower defense attorney for employers at law firm Epstein Becker & Green PC, said whistleblowers can face more risk and exposure to legal action when they disclose information to the press. 


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