The inside story of Facebook managing its own mess

We’ve finally got an inside look at how Facebook handled the endless crisis’ it’s faced over the last two years thanks to The New York Times, which interviewed more than 50 people to publish this story.

The piece is an incredibly long read with something for everyone, with serious issues coming to light for the first time in a number of areas. If I were to boil it down to key takeaways:

  • Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO, oversaw an intensive lobbying effort that dabbled in many grey areas, including trying to discredit activists.
  • Alex Stamos, former Chief Security Officer at Facebook, took it upon himself to investigate Russian activity on the platform as early as 2016. His team found masses of activity on the platform, notified Zuckerberg and Sandberg, which was reacted to with fury for having done so without approval.
  • Zuckerberg was so pissed off by Tim Cook’s comments that Apple doesn’t “traffic in your personal life” that he responded by ordering Facebook management to use Android phones.
  • Executives consistently downplayed realities of data breaches, Russian meddling and other issues —despite understanding the extent of the problem — by propagating conspiracy theories and suppressing opposition.
  • Facebook paid a lobbying group to create insinuating articles on a website called ‘NTK Network’ to focus attention on Google and Apple, rather than itself.

Even trying to pull these pieces together, I realized these are only the highlights of a long read that is damning across the board. It must have taken years to piece this together, and there’s so much information in it that it reads like a novel, rather than reality.

I encourage you to read the piece, despite its length, because it’s the first peek we get behind a veil that’s notoriously difficult to see at all. Facebook is difficult to report on because it’s incredibly secretive, and employees are less likely to talk than at any other company.

What happens from here is anyone’s guess. The report is a bombshell, and Facebook has already ended its relationship with the lobbying firm as a result, but a report that also emerged yesterday said that just 52% of staff are optimistic about its future, down 32% in just a year.

One top democrat for the House antitrust committee said after reading the story that “it is long past time for us to take action” and that “Congress should get to work enacting new laws to hold concentrated economic power to account.”

This is just the beginning.

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