Facebook's Sandberg claims she was unaware of PR firm's campaign in US elections

Sheryl Sandberg also explained that she was not aware of the hired PR firms' scope of work.

In a long post on her official Facebook page, the chief operating officer at Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg explained that she was unaware of an agency that ran smear campaigns that targeted George Soros mentioned in an earlier New York Times report.

Sandberg in her post also claimed that she respected Soros and acknowledged that she and founder Mark Zuckerberg were “too slow” when it came to spotting and understanding Russian interference in the 2016 elections. But she denied the allegations that Facebook was trying to hide or prevent investigations into Russian meddling, stating that they were “simply untrue”.

Sheryl Sandberg, COO Facebook. Image: Reuters

Sheryl Sandberg, COO Facebook. Image: Reuters

She explained that it was only after the elections that Facebook became aware of the widespread misinformation campaign run by the Russia-based Internet Research Agency (IRA).

The COO also explained in her post that the social network fired the PR and research agency, Definers, claiming that she did not know when Facebook hired them nor knew about the work that they were doing.

You can read the full text of the lengthy Facebook post below:

I want to address some of the claims that have been made in the last 24 hours.

On a number of issues – including spotting and understanding the Russian interference we saw in the 2016 election – Mark and I have said many times we were too slow. But to suggest that we weren’t interested in knowing the truth, or we wanted to hide what we knew, or that we tried to prevent investigations, is simply untrue. The allegations saying I personally stood in the way are also just plain wrong. This was an investigation of a foreign actor trying to interfere in our election. Nothing could be more important to me or to Facebook.

As Mark and I both told Congress, leading up to Election Day in November 2016, we detected and dealt with several threats with ties to Russia and reported what we found to law enforcement. These were known traditional cyberattacks like hacking and malware. It was not until after the election that we became aware of the widespread misinformation campaigns run by the IRA. Once we were, we began investing heavily in more people and better technology to protect our platform. While we will always have more work to do, I believe we've started to see some of that work pay off, as we saw in the recent US midterms and elections around the world where we have found and taken down further attempts at interference.

I also want to address the issue that has been raised about a PR firm, Definers. We’re no longer working with them but at the time, they were trying to show that some of the activity against us that appeared to be grassroots also had major organizations behind them. I did not know we hired them or about the work they were doing, but I should have. I have great respect for George Soros – and the anti-Semitic conspiracy theories against him are abhorrent.

At Facebook, we are making the investments that we need to stamp out abuse in our system and ensure the good things people love about Facebook can keep happening. It won’t be easy. It will take time and will never be complete. This mission is critical and I am committed to seeing it through.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg drafted an article titled Blueprint for content governance and enforcementwhich is the second in a series of articles which Zuckerberg will be writing about. The series will focus on the challenges Facebook faces and the progress it has made. The first in these series of articles was Preparing for Elections, which was published in September.

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