New York Times Update

Yesterday, The New York Times published an article about the past two years at Facebook. There are a number of inaccuracies in the story, including:

  1. Russia Investigation: The story asserts that we knew about Russian activity as early as the spring of 2016 but were slow to investigate it at every turn. This is not true. As Mark Zuckerberg told Congress, “Leading up to Election Day in November 2016, we detected and dealt with several threats with ties to Russia … [including] a group called APT28 … we also saw some new behavior when APT28-related accounts, under the banner of DC Leaks, created fake personas that were used to seed stolen information to journalists. We shut these accounts down for violating our policies.” After the election, no one ever discouraged Alex Stamos from looking into Russian activity — as he himself has acknowledged on Twitter repeatedly (here and here.) (Updated on November 15, 2018 at 9:40AM PT to include Alex’s tweet from this morning.) Indeed as The New York Times says, “Mark and Sheryl [Sandberg] expanded Alex’s work.” Finally, we did not name Russia in our April 2017 white paper — but instead cited a US government report in a footnote about Russian activity — because we felt that the US Director of National Intelligence was best placed to determine the source.
  2. The Muslim Ban: We did decide that President Trump’s comments on the Muslim ban, while abhorrent to many people, did not break our Community Standards for the same reasons The New York Times and many other organizations covered the news: Donald Trump was a candidate running for office. To suggest that the internal debate around this particular case was different from other important free speech issues on Facebook is wrong.
  3. Commitment to Fighting Fake News: Mark and Sheryl have been deeply involved in the fight against false news and information operations on Facebook — as they have been consistently involved in all our efforts to prevent misuse of our services.
  4. Sex Trafficking Legislation: Sheryl championed this legislation because she believed it was the right thing to do, and that tech companies need to be more open to content regulation where it can prevent real world harm. In fact, the company faced considerable criticism as a result.
  5. Android: Tim Cook has consistently criticized our business model and Mark has been equally clear he disagrees. So there’s been no need to employ anyone else to do this for us. And we’ve long encouraged our employees and executives to use Android because it is the most popular operating system in the world.

Lastly we wanted to address the issue of Definers, who we ended our contract with last night. The New York Times is wrong to suggest that we ever asked Definers to pay for or write articles on Facebook’s behalf – or to spread misinformation. Our relationship with Definers was well known by the media – not least because they have on several occasions sent out invitations to hundreds of journalists about important press calls on our behalf. Definers did encourage members of the press to look into the funding of “Freedom from Facebook,” an anti-Facebook organization. The intention was to demonstrate that it was not simply a spontaneous grassroots campaign, as it claimed, but supported by a well-known critic of our company. To suggest that this was an anti-Semitic attack is reprehensible and untrue.

We’ve acknowledged publicly on many occasions – including before Congress – that we were too slow to spot Russian interference on Facebook, as well as other misuse. But in the two years since the 2016 Presidential election, we’ve invested heavily in more people and better technology to improve safety and security on our services. While we still have a long way to go, we’re proud of the progress we have made in fighting misinformation, removing bad content and preventing foreign actors from manipulating our platform.


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