In the aftermath of the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Facebook came under intense scrutiny for its role in allowing foreign bad actors to spread misinformation and propaganda on the platform. And now, according to a new book from New York Times reporters Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang, Facebook was just as caught off guard by the foreign interference as everyone else.
In an excerpt from the forthcoming book “An Ugly Truth: Inside Facebook’s Battle for Domination,” the reporters reveal that Facebook executives held a contentious meeting in December 2016 where security chief Alex Stamos revealed that “Facebook was sitting on a trove of information proving that a foreign government had tried to meddle in the U.S. election.” This reportedly stunned the other leaders, who had no clue about the scale of the problem. Thankfully, this served as a wake-up call for Facebook to begin taking the problem more seriously — however, the damage caused during that election cycle was done.
“In 2016, we and those in the government and media did not fully recognize the nature and scope of foreign interference in our elections,” Facebook spokesperson Dani Lever told Axios in a statement. “Since 2017, we have removed over 150 covert influence operations originating in more than 50 counties, and a dedicated investigative team continues to vigilantly protect democracy on our platform both here and abroad.”
While it’s a good thing that Facebook eventually realized how its platform was being abused, the company also could’ve been way more on the ball in the first place.
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