How Frances Haugen Became a Powerful Player in Facebook Leaks


The Journal team left before the end of the call. Since then, reporters from The Atlantic, The Associated Press, CNN, NBC News, Fox Business and other outlets including the New York Times have looked at the first installment of Ms Haugen’s documents, as well as a side group in Europe, with one planning to release their findings on Monday (although the stories started to come out Friday night).

We live in an age of mega-leaks, made possible by the same digital technology that allows us to monitor each other and document our lives like never before. These leaks have given the leakers and their brokers a new kind of power over the media, raising delicate questions about how their disclosures should enter the public sphere. One wonders in particular about the balance of power between vital information sources and the reporters who benefit from them.

Some leaks, including US Army and State Department files, have emerged on WikiLeaks or anonymous servers in the form of massive data dumps; others, including the National Security Agency files of Edward Snowden and that of The Intercept revelations of the US drone wars, came after reporters gained the trust of their sources.

The Panama Papers reports, based on the leak of more than 11 million documents, and other reviews of global tax evasion that followed were negotiated through the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which has managed a collaboration between hundreds of journalists around the world. They read the materials, along with each other’s stories, on a secure server before coordinating the rollout of their articles on social media.

In some cases, the leaker or hacker seems to be the one who controls how and when information is disseminated. This is how it turned out in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election, when a Kremlin-led cyberattack on the Democratic National Committee led to the committee’s devastating publication of private documents on WikiLeaks.

In other cases, a key source may give way to a unified group of journalists – the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists or elsewhere – who add layers of reporting and analysis to the raw material.

“You can’t afford to let the source dictate the story,” Gerard Ryle, director of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, said in an interview.


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