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ℓʋℓʋ ℓɛ Who? @LuluLemew
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Bent on growth, Zuck & Sandberg ignored warning signs about their platform being used by Russia and then sought to conceal them from public view.
nytimes.com/2018/11/14/tec…
This report is based on interviews w more than 50 current & former Fb execs & employees, lawmakers, govt officials, lobbyists & congressional staff members. Most spoke on the condition of anonymity because they had signed NDAs, were not authorized, or feared retaliation.
At critical moments over the last three years, Sandberg & Zuck were distracted by personal projects, and passed off security and policy decisions to subordinates, according to current and former executives.
When users learned last spring that fb had compromised their privacy in its rush to expand, allowing access to personal info of tens of millions of ppl to Cambridge Analytica, a political data firm linked to Trump, it sought to deflect blame & mask the extent of the problem.
And when that failed — as the company’s stock price plummeted and sparked a consumer backlash — Facebook went on the attack.

[Because apparently money means more than protecting users...and countries from hostile powers brainwashing people...]
Zuckerberg conducted a public apology tour in the last year, Sandberg oversaw an aggressive lobbying campaign to combat Fb's critics, shift public anger toward rival companies and ward off damaging regulation.
[Wonder which one] Fb employed a Republican opposition-research firm to discredit activist protesters, in part by linking them to George Soros. It also tapped its business relationships, persuading a Jewish civil rights group to cast some criticism of the company as anti-Semitic.
as Fb grew, so did the hate speech, bullying and other toxic content on the platform. When researchers and activists in Myanmar, India, Germany and elsewhere warned that Facebook had become an instrument of govt propaganda and ethnic cleansing, fb largely ignored them
Facebook had positioned itself as a platform, not a publisher. Taking responsibility for what users posted, or acting to censor it, was expensive and complicated. Many Facebook executives worried that any such efforts would backfire.
Then came Assh...Trump
He described Muslim immigrants and refugees as a danger to America, and in December 2015 posted a statement on Facebook calling for a “total and complete shutdown” on Muslims entering the United States.
Poopface L'Orange's call to arms — widely condemned by Democrats and some prominent Republicans — was shared more than 15,000 times on Facebook, an illustration of the site’s power to spread racist sentiment.
Zuckerberg, who had helped found a nonprofit dedicated to immigration reform, was appalled, said employees who spoke to him or were familiar with the conversation. He asked Sandberg and other executives if Grandpa Diaper had violated Facebook’s terms of service.
The question was unusual. (No it was not)

Zuckerberg typically focused on broader technology issues; politics was Sandberg’s domain. In 2010, Sandberg recruited a friend and fellow Clinton alum, Marne Levine, as Facebook’s chief Washington representative
A year later, after Republicans seized control of the House, Sandberg installed another friend, a well-connected Republican:

Joel Kaplan, who had attended Harvard with Sandberg and later served in the GWB administration.
Some viewed FakePotus' 2015 attack on Muslims as an opportunity to finally take a stand against the hate speech coursing through its platform.

But Sandberg delegated it to Schrage and Monika Bickert, a former prosecutor whom Sandberg had recruited as fb’s head of global policy
Sandberg also turned to the Washington office — particularly to Kaplan, said people who participated in or were briefed on the discussions.
In video conference calls between the Silicon Valley headquarters and Washington, the three officials construed their task narrowly. They parsed the company’s terms of service to see if the post, or WeaselCarcassToupé's account, violated Facebook’s rules.
Kaplan argued that Poot'sPuppet was an important public figure/ shutting down his acct or removing the statement could be seen as obstructing free speech.

He also said it could also stoke a conservative backlash. [Real reason]

“Don’t poke the bear”
Funny he should use "bear"🇷🇺
Zuckerberg did not participate in the debate. Sandberg attended some of the video meetings but rarely spoke.

Schrage concluded 45's language had not violated Fb’s rules & *his views had public value?!*
45's racist statement/acct remained. When Poot installed 45 in 2016, giving gop control of WH/Congress, Kaplan was empowered to plan accordingly.

FB hired a
*former aide to Sessions*, along with *lobbying firms linked to GOP lawmakers who had jurisdiction over internet co's*
But inside Facebook, new troubles were brewing.
In the final months of DT’s campaign, Russian agents escalated a yearlong effort to hack and harass his Democratic opponents, culminating in the release of thousands of emails stolen from prominent Democrats and party officials.
Facebook had said nothing publicly about any problems on its own platform.

But in the spring of 2016, a company expert on Russian cyberwarfare spotted something worrisome. He reached out to his boss, Stamos.
Stamos’s team discovered that Russian hackers appeared to be probing Fb accts for ppl connected to the campaigns.

Months later, the team also found Facebook accounts linked to Russian hackers who were messaging journalists to share information from the stolen emails.

Oh.
Stamos, 39, told Colin Stretch, Facebook’s general counsel, about the findings, said two people involved in the conversations.

At the time, Facebook had no policy on disinformation or any resources dedicated to searching for it.
Stamos, acting on his own, then directed a team to scrutinize the extent of Ru activity.

Dec 2016
After Zuck publicly scoffed at the idea that fake news on Facebook had helped elect DT, Stamos — alarmed the CEO didn't know — met w Zuck, Sandberg and other top Facebook leaders.
Sandberg was angry. Looking into the Russian activity without approval, she said, had left the company exposed legally. Other executives asked Stamos why they had not been told sooner.
Still, Sandberg/Zuck decided to expand on Stamos’s work, creating a group called Project P, for “propaganda,” to study false news.
Jan 2017, the group knew Stamos’s original team had only scratched the surface of Ru activity & pressed to issue a public paper about their findings.
But Kaplan (the GOP operative) and other Fb execs objected. DC was already reeling from an official finding by USIC that Poot had personally ordered an influence campaign aimed at helping elect his puppet.
If Fb implicated Russia further, Kaplan said, R's would accuse fb of siding w Ds. And if Fb pulled down the fake pages, regular users might also react at having been deceived: His own mother-in-law, Mr. Kaplan said, followed a Fb page created by Russian trolls.

Nice story bro
Sandberg sided w Kaplan.
Zuck — who spent much of 2017 on a national “listening tour,” feeding cows and eating dinner with Somali refugees — did not participate in the conversations about the public paper. When it was published that April, the word “Russia” never appeared.
Sandberg’s subordinates took a similar approach in the Senate hearings.
Throughout the spring and summer of 2017, Fb officials repeatedly played down Senate investigators’ concerns while publicly claiming there had been no Russian effort of any significance on Facebook.
But inside fb employees were tracing more ads, pages and groups back to Ru. That June, a nyt reporter provided a list of accts with suspected ties to Russia, seeking more info on their provenance. By Aug 2017, fb executives concluded it had become what 1 called a “5-alarm fire”
Zuckerberg and Sandberg agreed to go public with some findings, and laid plans to release a blog post on Sept. 6, 2017, the day of the company’s quarterly board meeting.
After Mr. Stamos and his team drafted the post, however, Sandberg and her deputies insisted it be less specific. She & Zuck also asked Stamos & Stretch to brief the board’s audit committee, chaired by Erskine Bowles, the patrician investor and White House veteran.
Stretch and Stamos went into more detail with the audit committee than planned, warning that Facebook was likely to find even more evidence of Russian interference
The disclosures set off Bowles, who after years in DC could anticipate how lawmakers might react. He grilled the two men on how FB had allowed itself to become a tool for Ru interference & why it had taken so long to uncover the activity, why FB directors were only now being told
When the full board gathered later that day at a room at fb hq reserved for sensitive meetings, Bowles pelted q's at Sandberg. Visibly unsettled, she apologized. Mr. Zuckerberg, stone-faced, whirred through technical fixes.
Later that day, the company’s abbreviated blog post went up. It said little about fake accounts or the organic posts created by Russian trolls that had gone viral on Facebook, disclosing only that Russian agents had spent roughly $100k — a relatively tiny sum — on approx 3k ads.
Just one day after the company’s carefully sculpted admission, The Times published an investigation of further Russian activity on Facebook, showing how Russian intelligence had used fake accounts to promote emails stolen from the Democratic Party and prominent Washington figures
The combined revelations infuriated Ds. Rs, already concerned that the platform was censoring conservative views, accused Fb of fueling what they claimed were meritless conspiracy charges against their dear leader and Russia.
Democrats, long allied with Silicon Valley on issues including immigration and gay rights, now blamed Mr. Trump’s win partly on Facebook’s tolerance for fraud and disinformation.
After stalling for weeks, Facebook eventually agreed to hand over the Russian posts to Congress. Twice in October 2017, Facebook was forced to revise its public statements, finally acknowledging that close to 126 million people had seen the Russian posts.
The same month, Mr. Warner and Senator Amy Klobuchar, the Minnesota Democrat, introduced legislation to compel Facebook and other internet firms to disclose who bought political ads on their sites — a significant expansion of federal regulation over tech companies.
“It’s time for Facebook to let all of us see the ads bought by Russians *and paid for in Rubles* during the last election,” Ms. Klobuchar wrote on her own Facebook page.
Fb girded for battle. Days after the bill was unveiled, Facebook hired Mr. Warner’s former chief of staff, Luke Albee, to lobby on it. Kaplan’s team took a larger role in managing fb's response, routinely reviewing Facebook news releases for words or phrases that might rile gop.
Sandberg also reached out to Sen Klobuchar. Sandberg had contributed a blurb to Sen. Klobuchar’s 2015 memoir, and the senator’s chief of staff had previously worked at Ms. Sandberg’s charitable foundation.
But in a tense conversation shortly after the ad legislation was introduced, Ms. Sandberg complained about Ms. Klobuchar’s attacks on the company, said a person who was briefed on the call. @amyklobuchar did not back down on her legislation.

Good.
But she dialed down her criticism in at least one venue important to the company: After blasting Facebook repeatedly that fall on her own Facebook page, Ms. Klobuchar hardly mentioned the company in posts between November and February.
A spokesman for Ms. Klobuchar said in a statement that fb's lobbying had not lessened her commitment to holding the it accountable. “Facebook was pushing to exclude issue ads from the Honest Ads Act, and Senator Klobuchar strenuously disagreed and refused to change the bill,”
Oct 2017, Fb expanded its work w DC-based consultant, Definers Public Affairs, that had originally been hired to monitor press coverage of FB.
Founded by veterans of Republican presidential politics, Definers specialized in applying political campaign tactics to corporate public relations — an approach long employed in Washington by big telecommunications firms and activist hedge fund managers, but less common in tech.
Definers established a Silicon Valley outpost earlier that year, led by Tim Miller, fmr spox for Jeb Bush who preached the virtues of campaign-style oppo research.
For tech firms, he argued in one interview, a goal should be to “have positive content pushed out about your company and negative content that’s being pushed out about your competitor.”
Facebook quickly adopted that strategy. In November 2017, the social network came out in favor of a bill called the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act, which made internet companies responsible for sex trafficking ads on their sites
Google and others had fought the bill for months, worrying it would set a cumbersome precedent. But the sex trafficking bill was championed by Sen Thune, who had pummeled Fb over accusations of censoring conservative content &Sen Blumenthal, who was a frequent critic of Facebook.
Facebook broke ranks with other tech companies, hoping the move would help repair relations on both sides of the aisle, said two congressional staffers and three tech industry officials.
When the bill came to a vote in the House in February, Sandberg offered public support online, urging Congress to “make sure we pass meaningful and strong legislation to stop sex trafficking.”
In March, NYT, Observer/Guardian prepared to publish a joint investigation into how FB user data had been appropriated by Cambridge Analytica to profile US voters. A few days before, NYT presented FB with evidence that copies of improperly acquired data still existed.
Zuck/Sandberg met with their lieutenants to determine a response. They decided to pre-empt the stories, saying in a statement published late on a Friday night that Fb had suspended #ca from its platform. The execs figured that getting ahead of the news would soften its blow.

Ha.
They were wrong. The story drew worldwide outrage, prompting lawsuits and official investigations in Washington, London and Brussels. For days, Zuckerberg/Sandberg remained out of sight, mulling how to respond.
While the Russia investigation had devolved into an increasingly partisan battle, the Cambridge scandal set off Democrats and Republicans alike. And in Silicon Valley, other tech firms began exploiting the outcry to burnish their own brands.
“We’re not going to traffic in your personal life,” Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, said in an MSNBC interview. “Privacy to us is a human right. It’s a civil liberty.” (Cook’s criticisms infuriated Zuck, who later ordered his mgmt team to use only Android phones.)

Oh ffs.
Facebook scrambled anew. Executives quietly shelved an internal communications campaign, called “We Get It,” meant to assure employees that the company was committed to getting back on track in 2018.
Then Facebook went on the offensive. Kaplan prevailed on Sandberg to promote Kevin Martin, a former FCC chairman and fellow Bush administration veteran, to lead the company’s American lobbying efforts. Facebook also expanded its work with Definers.
On a conservative news site called the NTK Network, dozens of articles blasted Google & Apple for unsavory business practices. One called Cook hypocritical for chiding fb over privacy, noting Apple also collects data. Another played down the impact of the Russians’ use of Fb
The rash of news was no accident: NTK is an affiliate of Definers, sharing offices/ staff w the PR firm in Arlington, Va.

Many NTK Network stories are written by staff members at Definers or America Rising, its political oppo-research arm, to attack their clients’ enemies.
While the NTK Network does not have a large audience of its own, its content is frequently picked up by popular conservative [propaganda] outlets...
*including Breitbart*
Miller acknowledged that Facebook and Apple do not directly compete.

Definers’ work on Apple is funded by a third technology co he said, but Facebook has pushed back against Apple because Cook’s criticism upset Facebook [and made Zuck throw a no-iphones-for-you tantrum]
If the privacy issue comes up, Facebook is happy to “muddy the waters,” Miller said over drinks at an Oakland, Calif., bar last month.
In public, Facebook was more conciliatory. Zuckerberg agreed to testify on Capitol Hill. The company unveiled a gauzy advertising campaign, titled “Here Together,” to apologize to its users. [which causes me to throw shoes every time it comes on]
Days before Zuckerberg’s appearance in Congress in April, Facebook announced that it was endorsing Klobuchar’s Honest Ads bill and would pre-emptively begin disclosing political ad buyers. It also informed users whose data had been improperly harvested by Cambridge Analytica.
But Zuckerberg’s good-will tour was bumpy. Thanks to intensive coaching & prep, fb’s comms team believed, he had effectively parried tough questions at the April hearing. But they worried he had come off as robotic — a suspicion confirmed by Fb’s pollsters [and every other human]
Zuckerberg’s political instincts were no more well-tuned. During a break in one hearing, he buttonholed Greg Walden, an Oregon Republican who leads the House Energy and Commerce Committee, to express his surprise at how tough on Facebook Democrats had been.
Walden was taken aback, said people who knew of the remark. Facebook’s leader, Walden realized, did not understand the breadth of the anger now aimed at his creation.
Sandberg had said little publicly about the company’s problems. But inside Facebook, her approach had begun to draw criticism.
Some colleagues believed Sandberg — whose ambitions to return to public life were much discussed at the company — was protecting her own brand at Facebook’s expense.

(And at the expense of users)
At one company gathering, said two people who knew of the event, friends told Ms. Sandberg that if Facebook did not address the scandals effectively, its role in spreading hate and fear would define her legacy, too.
So she began taking a more personal role in the company’s Washington campaign, not only relying on her old Dem ties, but sought to assuage skeptical Rs, who grumbled Fb was more sensitive to the political opinions of its work force than to those of powerful committee leaders.
Trailing an entourage of as many as 10 people on trips to the capital, Sandberg made a point of sending personal thank-you notes to lawmakers and others she met.
🙄
Her top Republican target was Burr, whose Senate committee’s Russia investigation had chugged along. The two spoke by phone, according to a congressional staff member and a Facebook executive, and met in person this fall
While critics cast Facebook as a serial offender that had ignored repeated warning signs about the dangers posed by its product, Sandberg argued that the company was grappling earnestly with the consequences of its extraordinary growth.🙄
She made the same case in June at a conference of the National Association of Attorneys General in Portland, Ore. At the time, several attorneys general had opened cases or joined lawsuits against the company. Facebook was eager to head off further litigation.
Fb organized several private receptions, including what was billed as a conversation with Sandberg about “corporate citizenship in the digital age” and a briefing on Cambridge Analytica.
While Facebook had publicly declared itself ready for new federal regulations, Sandberg privately contended that the social network was already adopting the best reforms and policies available. Heavy-handed regulation, she warned, would only disadvantage smaller competitors.🙄
Some of the officials were skeptical. But Sandberg’s presence — companies typically send lower-ranking executives to such gatherings — persuaded others that Facebook was serious about addressing its problems, according to two who attended the conference.
Facebook also continued to look for ways to deflect criticism to rivals. In June, after The Times reported on Fb’s previously undisclosed deals to share user data with device makers — partnerships FB had failed to disclose to lawmakers — executives ordered up focus groups in DC
In separate sessions with liberals and conservatives, about a dozen at a time, Facebook previewed messages to lawmakers. Among the approaches it tested was bringing YouTube& other social media platforms into the controversy, while arguing Google struck similar data-sharing deals.
By then, some of the harshest criticism of Facebook was coming from the political left, where activists and policy experts had begun calling for the company to be broken up.

[We still are]
July
organizers with a coalition called Freedom from Facebook crashed a hearing of the House Judiciary, where a fb exec was testifying. As she spoke, the organizers held aloft signs depicting Sandberg & Zuck, both Jewish, as two heads of an octopus stretching around the globe.
Eddie Vale, a Democratic PR strategist who led the protest, later said the image was meant to evoke old cartoons of Standard Oil, the Gilded Age monopoly. But a FB official quickly called the Anti-Defamation League, a leading Jewish civil rights organization, to flag the sign.
Facebook and other tech companies had partnered with the civil rights group since late 2017 on an initiative to combat anti-Semitism and hate speech online
An A.D.L. spokeswoman, Betsaida Alcantara, said the group routinely fielded reports of anti-Semitic slurs from journalists, synagogues and others. “Our experts evaluate each one based on our years of experience, and we respond appropriately,” Ms. Alcantara said.
The group has at times sharply criticized Facebook, including when Mr. Zuckerberg suggested that his company should not censor Holocaust deniers.
Facebook also used Definers to take on bigger opponents, such as Soros. A research document circulated by Definers to reporters this summer, just a month after the House hearing, cast Soros as the unacknowledged force behind what appeared to be a broad anti-fb movement.

WTAF
He was a natural target. In a speech at the World Economic Forum in January, he had attacked Fb and Google, describing them as a monopolist “menace” with “neither the will nor the inclination to protect society against the consequences of their actions.”

[Well he's right ffs]
Definers pressed reporters to explore the financial connections between Soros’s family or philanthropies and groups that were members of Freedom from Facebook, such as Color of Change, an online racial justice org, as well as a progressive group founded by Soros’s son.

😡
The research docs also highlighted those
*groups’ unrelated criticisms of Trump.*

(Definers also circulated research about other critics of Facebook, such as Diamond and Silk, the pro-Trump social media stars who had claimed they were treated unfairly by Facebook.)🙄
In at least one instance, the company also relied on Schumer.

During the 2016 election cycle, he raised more money from Facebook employees than any other member of Congress, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Schumer also has a personal connection to Facebook: His daughter Alison joined the firm out of college and is now a marketing manager in Facebook’s New York office, according to her LinkedIn profile.
In July, as Facebook’s troubles threatened to cost the company billions of dollars in market value, Schumer confronted Warner, by then Facebook’s most insistent inquisitor in Congress
Back off, he told Mr. Warner, 🤨according to a Facebook employee briefed on Schumer’s intervention. Warner should be looking for ways to work with Fb, Mr. Schumer advised, not harm it. Fb lobbyists were kept abreast of Schumer’s efforts to protect fb, according to the employee.🤔
Senate aide briefed on the exchange said that Schumer had not wanted Warner to lose sight of the need for Facebook to tackle problems with right-wing disinfo and election interference, as well as consumer privacy and other issues.

K
One morning in late summer, workers layered opaque contact paper onto the windows of a conference room in fb’s DC office. Not long after, a security guard was posted outside the door. It was an unusual sight: FB prided itself on open office plans.
Sandberg was set to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee — a pivotal encounter for her embattled company — and her aides were taking no chances.
Facebook lobbyists had already worked the Intelligence Committee hard, asking that lawmakers refrain from questioning Sandberg about privacy issues, Cambridge Analytica and censorship. The argument was persuasive w Burr, who was determined to avoid a circuslike atmosphere.
Inside the room, they labored to prepare her for the hearing. They had assembled a binder-size briefing book, covering virtually every issue she might be questioned about, and had hired a former White House lawyer who specialized in training corporate executives.
In the committee room the next day was an empty chair behind a placard labeled “Google.” Fb lobbied for the hearing to include Google. Fb won a partial victory when Burr announced that Larry Page, a Google co-founder, had been invited, along with Jack Dorsey, Twitter.
Dorsey showed up. Mr. Page did not.
As the hearing unfolded, senators excoriated Google for its absence, earning a wave of negative news coverage for Facebook’s rival.
Sandberg spread neatly handwritten notes on the table before her: the names of each senator on the committee, their pet questions and concerns, a reminder to say thank you.
In large letters were her stage directions: “Slow, Pause, Determined.”
...
Ohhhkay then.
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