and the Fight to Expose
its Harmful Secrets
By an award-winning technology reporter for The Wall Street Journal, a behind-the-scenes look at how Facebook manipulated users and distorted the way we connect online—and the company insiders who found the courage to speak out.
"Broken Code is brilliant reporting and a page-turning narrative of immense importance."
James Stewart, author of Den of Thieves and DisneyWar
"Impressive reporting... A thoroughly documented portrait of a company that recognizes its products have harmed people yet declines to meaningfully change them"
San Francisco Chronicle
"A dogged and meticulous reporter, Jeff Horwitz is at the height of his powers in Broken Code“
Ronan Farrow, author of Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators
"The book is stuffed with eye-popping, sometimes Orwellian statistics and anecdotes that could have come only from the inside... a book that so frequently makes serious, sophisticated observations and arguments."
New York Times Book Review
About Broken Code
Once the unrivaled titan of social media, Facebook held a singular place in culture and politics. Along with its sister platforms Instagram and WhatsApp, it was a daily destination for billions of users around the world. Inside and outside the company, Facebook extolled its products as bringing people closer together and giving them voice.
But in the wake of the 2016 election, even some of the company’s own senior executives came to consider those claims pollyannaish and simplistic. As a succession of scandals rocked Facebook, they—and the world—had to ask whether the company could control, or if it even
understood, its own platforms. Facebook employees set to work in pursuit of answers. Through their internal investigations, they discovered problems that ran far deeper than politics.
Facebook was peddling and amplifying anger, looking the other way at human trafficking, enabling drug cartels and authoritarians, and allowing VIP users to break the platform’s supposedly inviolable rules. They even raised concerns about whether their own product was safe for teens. Facebook was distorting behavior in ways no one inside or outside the company understood. Enduring personal trauma and professional setbacks, these employees successfully identified the root causes of Facebook's viral harms and drew up concrete plans to address them.
But the costs of fixing the platform—often measured in tenths of a percent of user engagement—were higher than Facebook's leadership was willing to pay. With their work consistently delayed, watered down, or stifled, those who best understood Facebook’s effects on users were left with a choice: to keep silent or go against their employer.
Broken Code tells the story of these employees and their explosive discoveries. Expanding on “The Facebook Files,” his blockbuster, award-winning series for The Wall Street Journal, reporter Jeff Horwitz lays out in sobering detail not just the architecture of Facebook’s failures, but what the company knew—and disregarded—about its damaging impact on all of us.
About the Author
Jeff Horwitz is a technology reporter for the Wall Street Journal in San Francisco, and a former reporter for the Associated Press, American Banker, Legal Times, The San Bernardino Sun and The Washington City Paper. He was a Knight Bagehot fellow at Columbia University, and has won Loeb and Polk awards, as well as the Christopher J Welles Memorial Prize and the New York Press Club's Gold Keyboard. He lives in Oakland with his wife.