Zuckerberg Denies and Deflects as Sandberg Feels “Thrown Under The Bus”
- The Knowledge Group
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Facebook is making one misstep after another. Now, shareholders and managers are just learning that Facebook was actually informed of attempts at Russian infiltration. How much did Facebook know? When did it know?
Calling for Congressional Oversight
Rhode Island Representative David Cicilline, after a Times investigation into Facebook’s mismanagement of Russian misinformation campaigns on its platform, has asserted that Facebook cannot regulate itself. Facebook’s top brass, including Sheryl Sandberg and Mark Zuckerberg, had avoided transparency in the matter, yet Zuckerberg denies this.
In early 2016, people inside Facebook had spotted suspicious Russian activity, which was reported to the F.B.I. Nevertheless, Zuckerberg waved off Facebook as a factor influencing the election as a “crazy idea.”
Lack of Accountability
After the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the highest-ranking manager to leave the company was chief security officer Alex Stamos. It was Stamos who informed company board members that Facebook failed to contain Russian meddling with the site. “You threw us under the bus!” an embarrassed Sandberg reportedly shouted at Stamos.
Sandberg and Zuckerberg focused on damage control and warding off regulation of its data handling.
Some at Facebook had considered presidential candidate Donald Trump’s 2015 Facebook attack against Muslims a chance to set policy. But, fearing conservative backlash, the platform left the Trump account alone.
During the presidential campaign, Stamos and team found Russian hackers sending provocative information to key campaign figures.
Zuckerberg and Sandberg agreed to publish some findings in a September 2017 blog entry. Stamos and team wrote it up. Sandberg insisted it be couched in vaguer terms.
The final blog post said little about Russian trolls’ viral posts and downplayed the receipt of advertising money. The following day, The New York Times published an investigation into Facebook accounts and the hacking of prominent Democrats’ emails.
The combined revelations angered politicians on both sides of the aisle, and Facebook was forced to submit Russian posts to Congress. Ultimately it would admit that nearly 126 million people had been exposed to Russian manipulation.
Wanted: Honest Ads
A bill called the Honest Ads Act was introduced to force transparency as to who buys political ads on social media, which would expand federal oversight of internet companies. Then, in November 2017, Facebook supported the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers bill to hold tech companies responsible for trafficking through advertising. In doing so, Facebook broke ranks with other tech companies, evidently keen to score political points.
The “honest ads” issue is significant for the newly reconstituted U.S. Congress, and for the development of internet law.
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