Facebook is fighting back against a bombshell story in The New York Times that suggests top executives at the company wavered over whether to tell the world about its Russian hacking problem.
“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,” the tech titan states. “This is not true.”
Earlier this year, Facebook cofounder-CEO Mark Zuckerberg told Congress that the company detected and dealt with several threats with ties to Russia, “leading up to Election Day in November 2016.”
Unnamed sources tell The Times former Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos was dissuaded from publishing a report on Russian hacking in January 2017 by Joel Kaplan, Facebook’s vice president, corporate public policy.
“No one ever discouraged Alex Stamos from looking into Russian activity,” Facebook asserts.
As for why Facebook chose not to name Russia in an April 2017 security white paper, the company says it decided it was preferable to cite a U.S. government report in a footnote about Russian activity.
“We felt that the U.S. Director of National Intelligence was best placed to determine the source,” according to Facebook.
The Times also reports that Facebook paid a Republican-linked consulting firm, Definers Public Affairs, to discredit critics such as Freedom From Facebook -- a coalition of advocacy groups that has pressured the Federal Trade Commission to break up Facebook into smaller companies.
In this case, too, Facebook is crying fake news.
“The New York Times is wrong to suggest we ever asked Definers to pay for or write articles on Facebook’s behalf -- or to spread misinformation,” according to the company.
Definers did encourage members of the press to look into the funding of “Freedom from Facebook,” the social giant admits.
However, “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,” it insists.
Despite such denials, Facebook severed ties with Definers, this week.
The Times story also suggests that executives were at odds about whether or not to censor President Donald Trump’s inflammatory comments on the Muslim ban -- another account that Facebook is rejecting.
“We did decide that President Trump’s comments on the Muslim ban, while abhorrent to many people, did not break our Community Standards,” the company notes. “To suggest the internal debate around this particular case was different from other important free speech issues on Facebook is wrong.”
Facebook is also denying that Zuckerberg ordered all Facebook employees to use Android phones out of animus toward Apple and its CEO Tim Cook.“We’ve long encouraged our employees and executives to use Android because it is the most popular operating system in the world,” Facebook insists.