Facebook board says it pushed Mark Zuckerberg to ‘move faster’ on Russia interference probe

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Facebook’s board has issued a statement claiming that it tried to push company founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other senior leadership to “move faster” on Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election in response to a New York Times investigation.

The Times investigation, which was published on Wednesday, claimed that both Zuckerberg and Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg downplayed efforts within Facebook to assess the extent of Russian interference attempts and attempted to direct blame at the social media giant’s competitors.

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One day later, the company has issued a statement alleging that Facebook’s board attempted to push Sandberg and Zuckerberg to “move faster” in the investigation of Russian interference, but that any suggestion that the company’s senior leadership attempted to thwart or ignore these investigations is “grossly unfair,” CNBC reports.  

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“The company was too slow to spot Russian interference, and too slow to take action. As a board we did indeed push them to move faster,” the board said in the statement. “In the last eighteen months Facebook, with the full support of this board, has invested heavily in more people and better technology to prevent misuse of its services, including during elections.”

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The statement went on to reference the U.S. midterm elections, claiming that they were demonstrable of the “considerable progress” the company has made in mitigating these issues.

Facebook came under fire following the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election upon claims that the platform had inadvertently influenced the outcome of the election. Furthermore, it eventually came to light through an FBI probe that Russian operators had been using social media to spread misinformation during the election.

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Since then, Facebook has taken public efforts to address the problem while simultaneously dealing with several data scandals in which the company was accused of mishandling user data.

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During the midterm elections, for example, Facebook constructed a “war room” in its California headquarters designed to bring together policy, legal and security teams to avoid a repeat of the misinformation crisis of the 2016 election.

Samidh Chakrabarti, Facebook’s director of elections and head of civic engagement, described the war room to CNN as “the culmination of two years of massive investments we’ve made both in people and technology to ensure that our platforms are safe and secure for elections. So it builds upon work that we’ve done to crack down on fake accounts, on combating the spread of fake news on our platforms.”

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U.S lawmakers, however, are not convinced. Democratic U.S. Representative David Cicilline, expected to become the next chairman of House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel, said on Wednesday that Facebook Inc. cannot be trusted to regulate itself and Congress should take action.

Cicilline, citing a report in the New York Times on Facebook‘s efforts to deal with a series of crises, said on Twitter: “This staggering report makes clear that @Facebook executives will always put their massive profits ahead of the interests of their customers.”

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“It is long past time for us to take action,” he said.

— With files from Reuters. 

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