Facebook parent company Meta’s (FB) Menlo Park, California, headquarters features the world’s largest open floor plan. It’s a massive single room where employees, or Metamates as CEO Mark Zuckerberg now calls them, build the apps that billions of people use.
But according to Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen, it’s not practical. And that impracticality reflects Meta’s inability to notice its own blindspots, she says — especially when it comes to figuring out how to address flaws like hate speech and its impact on teen users.
“Facebook’s campus is a physical manifestation of their obsession with flatness, the idea that we are all on the same level,” Haugen told Yahoo Finance Editor-in-Chief Andy Serwer during an exclusive interview.
“But when you don’t acknowledge that power differentials exist, you actually reinforce those power dynamics,” Haugen said. “A situation where flatness is obsessed over means there’s actually not a lot of space for single leaders to come forward to say there is a problem, or we need to make a short term sacrifice for a long-term gain.”
Haugen, a former Facebook employee, became one of Meta’s most dangerous detractors when, in 2021, she provided thousands of internal Facebook documents to news organizations and politicians in the U.S. and abroad. The trove of papers included instances of Meta employees openly acknowledging their inability to police the social media giant’s platforms.
In October, Haugen testified to the Senate’s consumer protection subcommittee that the divisiveness and hate speech spread on Meta’s platforms would only get worse.
Meta has repeatedly pushed back against Haugen’s claims, saying that she doesn’t understand the documents, and that surveys included in the files don’t reflect its actual user base.
For her part, Haugen says that Meta’s turmoil stems from its failure to foster leadership as evidenced by its obsession with keeping everyone on the same level.
That obsession, she says, is made clear in the form of the company’s headquarters, which she says is so massive it makes doing work more difficult than it would in a normal, taller structure.
“The space is so large that I would regularly walk 15 minutes…to go to a 30 minute meeting,” Haugen said. “And so that level of absurdity, that it is more important for the building to be flat than to be functional for us to go to our meetings, just kind of shows you the blindness of that religion.”
Meta has more problems to contend with than just Haugen, though. The company’s shares have plummeted since it issued an abysmal Q4 earnings report earlier this month. Stagnating user numbers and Apple’s iOS privacy changes crushing its advertising business have sent investors fleeing the stock.
Meta stock price has fallen from $323 per share to $209. Its market cap, meanwhile, has been slashed from nearly $1 trillion to $584 million.
And if Meta can’t see its blindspots, it will have a hard time making a comeback.