Delay, Deny and Deflect: How Facebook’s Leaders Fought Through Crisis

In the ultimate months of Mr. Trump’s presidential marketing campaign, Russian brokers escalated a yearlong effort to hack and harass his Democratic opponents, culminating within the launch of 1000’s of emails stolen from distinguished Democrats and social gathering officers.

Facebook had mentioned nothing publicly about any issues by itself platform. But within the spring of 2016, an organization knowledgeable on Russian cyberwarfare noticed one thing worrisome. He reached out to his boss, Mr. Stamos.

Mr. Stamos’s crew found that Russian hackers gave the impression to be probing Facebook accounts for individuals related to the presidential campaigns, mentioned two staff. Months later, as Mr. Trump battled Hillary Clinton within the basic election, the crew additionally discovered Facebook accounts linked to Russian hackers who had been messaging journalists to share info from the stolen emails.

Mr. Stamos, 39, instructed Colin Stretch, Facebook’s basic counsel, concerning the findings, mentioned two individuals concerned within the conversations. At the time, Facebook had no coverage on disinformation or any sources devoted to looking for it.

Mr. Stamos, appearing on his personal, then directed a crew to scrutinize the extent of Russian exercise on Facebook. In December 2016, after Mr. Zuckerberg publicly scoffed at the concept faux information on Facebook had helped elect Mr. Trump, Mr. Stamos — alarmed that the corporate’s chief government appeared unaware of his crew’s findings — met with Mr. Zuckerberg, Ms. Sandberg and different high Facebook leaders.

Ms. Sandberg was indignant. Looking into the Russian exercise with out approval, she mentioned, had left the corporate uncovered legally. Other executives requested Mr. Stamos why they’d not been instructed sooner.

Still, Ms. Sandberg and Mr. Zuckerberg determined to develop on Mr. Stamos’s work, creating a bunch referred to as Project P, for “propaganda,” to review false information on the location, in keeping with individuals concerned within the discussions. By January 2017, the group knew that Mr. Stamos’s authentic crew had solely scratched the floor of Russian exercise on Facebook, and pressed to difficulty a public paper about their findings.

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