Facebook Board Issues Statement; Urged Zuckerberg And Sandberg To "Move Faster" On Russia

In response to Wednesday evening's New York Times exposé detailing Facebook's ham-handed attempts to deal with Russian influence on their platform and a massive data-harvesting scandal, Facebook's board of directors has issued a statement.

The board admits that the company was "too slow to take action" on Russian interference, however they took issue with the suggestion that the executives "either tried to ignore it or prevent investigations into what had happened." 

Full statement: 

"As Mark and Sheryl made clear to Congress, the company was too slow to spot Russian interference, and too slow to take action. As a board we did indeed push them to move faster. But to suggest that they knew about Russian interference and either tried to ignore it or prevent investigations into what had happened is grossly unfair. In the last eighteen months Facebook, with the full support of this board, has invested heavily in more people and better technology to prevent misuse of its services, including during elections. As the US mid-term showed they have made considerable progress and we support their continued to efforts to fight abuse and improve security." 

The board's statement notably fails to address the Cambridge Analytica data harvesting scandal which affected 87 million people, GOP PR firm hired to smear liberal detractors as Soros operatives, or their efforts to denigrate tech competitors Google and Apple. 

Following the article's publication, top representatives for the Hungarian-American billionaire have demanded answers as to why Facebook hired a GOP PR firm to try and suggest that backlash against the company's failure to quickly deal with Russian interference was linked to Soros.

A research document circulated by Definers to reporters this summer, just a month after the House hearing, cast Mr. Soros as the unacknowledged force behind what appeared to be a broad anti-Facebook movement.

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

Definers pressed reporters to explore the financial connections between Mr. Soros’s family or philanthropies and groups that were members of Freedom from Facebook, such as Color of Change, an online racial justice organization, as well as a progressive group founded by Mr. Soros’s son. (An official at Mr. Soros’s Open Society Foundations said the philanthropy had supported both member groups, but not Freedom from Facebook, and had made no grants to support campaigns against Facebook.) -NYT

Soros adviser Michael Vachon and the Open Society Foundation president, Patrick Gaspard, penned angry responses to the Times article, lambasting Facebook for smearing Soros amid "a concerted right-wing effort the world over to demonize Mr. Soros and his foundations." 

Also unaddressed by the Facebook board are accusations that their GOP PR firm, Definers, coordinated to publish negative articles on Google and Apple which called out questionable business practices, in an effort to downplay Facebook's responsibility in the data harvesting and Russia scandals. 

Mr. Kaplan prevailed on Ms. Sandberg to promote Kevin Martin, a former Federal Communications Commission 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 and Apple for unsavory business practices. One story called Mr. Cook hypocritical for chiding Facebook over privacy, noting that Apple also collects reams of data from users. Another played down the impact of the Russians’ use of Facebook.

The rash of news coverage was no accident: NTK is an affiliate of Definers, sharing offices and staff with the public relations firm in Arlington, Va. Many NTK Network stories are written by staff members at Definers or America Rising, the company’s political opposition-research arm, to attack their clients’ enemies. -NYT

Finally, the Facebook board doesn't address any of the political games played by the social media giant in an effort to contain and control congressional proceedings over Russia - using Sen. Chuck Schumer's influence to encourage other Democrats to back off Facebook,  while Schumer's daughter was employed by the company.