Compliance is all about following the rules. At Meta—the parent company of Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Meta Quest—compliance is always top of mind. To better engage its employees in compliance training, the social media company introduced a video training series fit for Hollywood, complete with characters, plot twists, and all the trappings of a Netflix original TV show.
Compliance refers to adhering to rules and laws, whether these are local, state, or federal laws, office policies, or accepted industry guidelines and standards. This includes filing taxes on time, adhering to a code of ethics or code of conduct, abiding by health and safety standards, following basic accounting principles, and more.
A Career in Compliance
Many companies employ compliance managers with titles such as marketing compliance manager, chief risk and compliance officer, director of compliance, legal compliance manager, and compliance administrator. Duties can include monitoring compliance, overseeing employee training and certification, conducting internal and external audits, overseeing annual risk assessments, maintaining knowledge of important laws and policies, and managing reports of misconduct, all in the name of ensuring compliance with all legal regulations and internal policies.
Making Compliance Training Fun
At Meta, Jennifer Newstead, the company’s chief legal officer, oversees legal and corporate governance matters, including compliance. When Meta set out to improve its training materials, Newstead knew there were several critical elements for a solid compliance program: leadership commitment, clear policies and standards, operating controls, and effective employee education. The legal department felt the material needed to be entertaining to encourage engagement and excitement.
The result was a series of videos akin to a TV show. The plot follows Bianca, a new engineer at Meta, who is working to finish developing a fictional game ahead of a gaming convention. She is encouraged by John, a third-party app developer, to bend Meta’s internal rules concerning the handling of user data.
Newstead said the legal department was intentional in building videos that were content-rich yet enjoyable. They created realistic scenarios that employees may actually encounter in real life. To do this, they conducted research to determine the biggest risk areas and identify real-world scenarios.
Employees responded positively to the video series Meta introduced. Employees binge-watched the series, created memes, and held watch parties. As a result, Meta is moving forward with season two.
Meta’s History With Compliance
Meta has a history of poorly handling user data. First, in 2011 the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed a complaint against Meta (then Facebook) for misrepresenting its privacy practices. The FTC obtained an order in 2012 to prevent the company from engaging in this behavior.
Facebook struggled for years to build credibility and win government trust after the so-called Cambridge Analytica scandal in which the company improperly shared personal data from 87 million users with a political consultant group for tailored political ads. The FTC alleged this was a violation of the order from 2012.
Meta (then Facebook) reached a settlement with the FTC in 2019, including a $5 billion penalty, a commitment to improve data privacy protection, and a 20-year settlement order to increase transparency, create greater accountability (for high-level managers all the way down to individual employees), and strengthen external oversight of the social media giant. This second order went into effect in 2020.
Recently, the FTC accused Meta of violating the 2020 order, saying the company continued to provide access to private user information to third-party app developers. The FTC also suggested the company should not be allowed to profit off of data collected from kids. An independent third-party assessor (from the 2020 order) said they found several weaknesses in Facebook’s privacy program.
In Facebook’s early years, Mark Zuckerberg coined an internal motto for the company: “Move fast and break things.” One could argue that this mentality contributed to Meta’s troubles. Newstead says Meta has changed quite a bit since Meta’s startup days, including implementing new processes, building new systems, and embedding compliance controls, leading to a more mature company. She says it is still important though for the company to move fast to stay innovative and competitive.
In the Classroom
This article can be used to discuss improving ethical behavior in business (Chapter 2: Business Ethics and Social Responsibility) and employee training (Chapter 10: Managing Human Resources).
- What is compliance and why is it important?
- How did Meta increase employee engagement with compliance training?
- Describe Meta’s troubles with the FTC.
This article was developed with the support of Kelsey Reddick for and under the direction of O.C. Ferrell, Linda Ferrell, and Geoff Hirt.
Dylan Tokar, "How Meta Uses Netflix-Style Videos to Get Engineers Thinking About Compliance," The Wall Street Journal, May 18, 2023, https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-meta-uses-netflix-style-videos-to-get-engineers-thinking-about-compliance-496d2293
Dylan Tokar, "Microsoft Employees Are Hooked on the Company’s Training Videos," The Wall Street Journal, May 10, 2023, https://www.wsj.com/articles/microsoft-employees-are-hooked-on-the-companys-training-videos-c8684a1
Federal Trade Commission, "FTC Imposes $5 Billion Penalty and Sweeping New Privacy Restrictions on Facebook," July 24, 2019, https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/news/press-releases/2019/07/ftc-imposes-5-billion-penalty-sweeping-new-privacy-restrictions-facebook
Hemant Taneja, "The Era of 'Move Fast and Break Things' Is Over," Harvard Business Review, January 22, 2019, https://hbr.org/2019/01/the-era-of-move-fast-and-break-things-is-over
John D. McKinnon, "FTC Proposes Barring Meta from Monetizing Young Users’ Data," The Wall Street Journal, May 3, 2023, https://www.wsj.com/articles/ftc-proposes-new-sanctions-for-facebook-owner-meta-879ec7e