SAN FRANCISCO — Mark Zuckerberg fiercely defended Facebook in a question-and-answer session with staff on Friday afternoon, pushing again towards criticism of the corporate in the wake of a New York Times investigation into the way it reacted to Russian affect operations.
In an hourlong videoconference broadcast to Facebook places of work around the globe, Mr. Zuckerberg responded to questions from staff on a variety of subjects, from Facebook’s conduct over the previous 18 months to the way it ought to deal with leaks to the media, in keeping with three folks conversant in the dialogue however not keen to debate it publicly as a result of it was a personal assembly.
The concept that Facebook tried to “cover up anything” was lifeless improper, an impassioned Mr. Zuckerberg stated, utilizing an expletive in his response, in keeping with these folks. Some staff responded with muted applause and cheers.
The session got here at a fraught time for the social community, as executives mobilized to take care of a torrent of criticism of the corporate. A Facebook spokeswoman declined to touch upon the Friday assembly.
On Wednesday, The Times reported a couple of battle on the prime ranks of Facebook with how to answer Russian disinformation operations and revelations of weak information privateness protections. In specific, there was appreciable pressure between Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief working officer, and Alex Stamos, the corporate’s former chief safety officer.
“Yup, Sheryl Sandberg yelled at me,” Mr. Stamos stated in an opinion piece published in The Washington Post on Saturday. “I had no confidence that we’d found out everything the Russians were up to, and it was quite possible that things would get worse before we built the teams and invented the technology necessary to stop it. Sheryl — as reported in this past week’s New York Times investigation — felt blindsided by this. (She later apologized.)”
The company had also hired Definers Public Affairs, a Washington, D.C. consulting firm, to seed opposition research on Facebook critics. Definers also linked George Soros, the liberal financier, to anti-Facebook groups. Facebook cut ties with the firm after The Times investigation was published.
In a conference call with reporters on Thursday, Mr. Zuckerberg criticized what Definers had done on behalf of his company and said he and Ms. Sandberg were not aware of the specific work the outside firm was doing. He added that someone on the company’s communications staff probably hired Definers, although he later complimented the communications staff for their “hard work.”
“In general, we need to go through all of our relationships and evaluate what might be more typical D.C. relationships and decide if we want to continue with them,” Mr. Zuckerberg said on the call.
Mr. Zuckerberg said much of the criticism of his company over the past 18 months — specifically regarding election security, content moderation and disinformation — had been fair and important.
Ms. Sandberg, who also attended the session, added that “I fully accept responsibility for Definers,” according to two people familiar with the conversation. “That was on me.”
But Mr. Zuckerberg and Ms. Sandberg said The Times’s investigation was “completely unfair” and at times “simply not true.”
Much of the discussion centered on boosting employee morale. Elliot Schrage, Facebook’s former vice president of global communications and public policy, returned to the company for the meeting on Friday.
Mr. Schrage said that Facebook was in a difficult news cycle, and that things would eventually calm down, and he urged workers to keep trying to do their best and work on the company’s tough problems.
Some Facebook employees indicated that they believe The Times and other news outlets are unfairly targeting the company because of its outsize influence — a sentiment shared in the session on Friday when employees asked executives what would happen to employees who leak information to the press.
Mr. Zuckerberg made it clear that Facebook would not hesitate to fire employees who spoke to The New York Times or other publications. But after an employee asked whether the company should issue a report about how many leakers Facebook had found and fired, Mr. Zuckerberg played down the idea.
Leaks, he said, are usually caused by “issues with morale.”
Get more stuff like this
Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting stuff and updates to your email inbox.
Thank you for subscribing.
Something went wrong.