For the past week, Mark Zuckerberg has grappled with a backlash from lawmakers, regulators and users over Facebook’s mishandling of data privacy. He has also had to face another restive group: his own employees.
The Facebook chief executive has taken multiple steps over the past few days to communicate with the social network’s 25,000 employees over revelations last week that a British political consulting firm, Cambridge Analytica, had improperly obtained data of 50 million Facebook users.
The Silicon Valley company held a staff meeting on Tuesday to answer questions about Cambridge Analytica, featuring one of Facebook’s lawyers, Paul Grewal. On Wednesday afternoon, Mr. Zuckerberg addressed employees directly, according to two Facebook employees who asked not be identified because the proceedings were confidential. Mr. Zuckerberg also spoke with staff on Friday at a regularly scheduled employee meeting, said two people who attended the event.
Facebook declined to comment on the meetings.
Speaking to Facebook’s employees was a crucial prong of what has become an apology tour of sorts for Mr. Zuckerberg over the Cambridge Analytica fallout. The revelations have raised calls for Mr. Zuckerberg to appear before Congress to explain himself, as well as a #DeleteFacebook movement and other criticism.
Mr. Zuckerberg had stayed silent on the matter for days, until he released a statement on Wednesday vowing that Facebook had to do better and gave several interviews to quell the crisis. That has not stopped pressure from Congress, with bipartisan leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee saying on Friday that they had sent a formal request for Mr. Zuckerberg to appear in a hearing over Facebook’s “harvesting and sale of personal information” related to Cambridge Analytica.
Calming employees was particularly vital because morale had sunk at the company, Facebook employees have said, especially after months of scrutiny over how the social network was used by Russian agents to influence the 2016 presidential election. Keeping workers engaged is crucial in Silicon Valley’s highly competitive job market, where recruiting and retaining talent often is difficult against deep-pocketed rivals.
Earlier this week, some Facebook employees had said that colleagues had started looking to transfer from the main social network product to other branches of the company, such as to messaging app WhatsApp and photo-sharing site Instagram, which have been relatively unscathed by the recent scandals.