Civics: Joan Donovan says funding was cut off for criticizing Meta when Harvard university was receiving $500m from Mark Zuckerberg’s charity

Chris Michael:

The controversial claims stem in part from Donovan’s publication of the Facebook papers, a bombshell leak of 22,000 pages of Facebook’s internal documents by the whistleblower Frances Haugen, who used to work at the company.

Donovan, believing them to be of huge public interest, began publishing them to Harvard’s website for anyone to access.

“From that very day forward, I was treated differently by the university to the point where I lost my job,” Donovan told the Logic.

In an October 2021 meeting of the dean’s council which advises the Harvard Kennedy School, where Donovan worked, the former Facebook communications head Elliot Schrage allegedly argued that Facebook “should not be the arbiter of truth”, according to Semafor. A little over a week later, the dean, Douglas Elmendorf, emailed Donovan asking her to justify her approach to studying misinformation in a climate “when there is no independent arbiter of truth (in this country or others) and constitutional protections of speech (in some countries)?”.

Donovan reproduced the email in her complaint, adding that Zuckerberg also frequently uses the term “arbiter of truth”.

Last year she was told her main project would be wound down. This year the school eliminated her position.

In an email to the Post, the Harvard Kennedy School said Donovan’s departure was not related to Meta.

It said it struggled to find a faculty sponsor to oversee her, which is a university policy. It also said she was not fired. Donovan “was offered the chance to continue as a part-time adjunct lecturer, and she chose not to do so”, the statement said.