A Facebook whistleblower says she turned down a $64,000 severance package that would have barred her from criticizing the company

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A Facebook whistleblower says she turned down a $64,000 severance package that would have barred her from criticizing the company
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in Washington D.C. on Oct. 23, 2019 Andrew Harnik/AP
  • A former Facebook employee rejected a $64,000 severance package due to its non-disparagement clause.
  • In a rare interview published on Thursday, Sophie Zhang told her story to MIT Technology Review.
  • She said Facebook allowed fake accounts to manipulate political outcomes around the world.

Former Facebook data scientist Sophie Zhang spent her time at the company identifying fake accounts that could manipulate election outcomes around the world.

When she was fired for "poor performance" last year, Facebook offered her a $64,000 severance package - if she signed a nondisparagement agreement, MIT technology review reported on Thursday.

Nondisparagement agreements are legally binding documents that prevent workers from sharing negative comments about the company and its employees.

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This week, Insider published a sweeping NDA transparency project that reviewed 36 NDAs from major tech companies and discovered how far Silicon Valley's giants will go to silence and control their employees. Workers said the agreements caused them to evade questions from family, seek treatment for depression and PTSD, and struggle to land new jobs after dozens of interviews, Insider's Matt Drange reported.

Read more: We reviewed 36 NDAs from major tech companies and discovered how far Silicon Valley's giants will go to silence and control their employees

Zhang said she turned down the money so she could publicly reveal the political manipulation happening on the platform.

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According to Zhang, Facebook leadership had done little to address election interference. Facebook denies her claims. A Facebook spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Zhang's severance package and its conditions.

After she left the company, Zhang posted a memo on her personal website that detailed how Facebook routinely ignored the issue. When she refused the company's request to take the memo down, her entire website was suddenly shut down.

Zhang wrote in the memo first published on Buzzfeed News: "I know that I have blood on my hands by now," and that "to give up ... would be a betrayal of the very core of my identity."

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"In 2016, we and those in the government and media did not fully recognize the nature and scope of foreign interference in our elections," a Facebook spokesperson has previously said about efforts to combat election interference. "Since 2017, we have removed over 150 covert influence operations originating in more than 50 counties, and a dedicated investigative team continues to vigilantly protect democracy on our platform both here and abroad."

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