Facebook executives Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg are battling backlash over an explosive investigation by the New York Times into Facebook's mercenary damage control tactics in the wake of several major scandals.
Despite fresh calls from investors for Zuckerberg to step down in his dual role as CEO and chairman and appoint an independent director to oversee the board, the 34-year-old tech titan brushed off the suggestion during a Thursday call with journalists.
“A company with Facebook’s massive reach and influence requires robust oversight and that can only be achieved through an independent chair who is empowered to provide critical checks on company leadership,” said New York City comptroller, Scott Stringer.
Zuckerberg disagrees. "I don’t think that that specific proposal is the right way to go," said the Facebook CEO when asked if he would consider stepping down, adding that other initiatives had been launched to "get more independence into our systems."
The measures include creating an independent body to advise the company on decisions over whether controversial content should remain on the site.
Ultimately, he said Facebook is never going to eradicate mistakes. “We’re never going to get to the point where there are no errors,” he told reporters. “I’m trying to set up the company so that way we have our board, and we report on our financial results and do a call every quarter, but that also we have this independent oversight that is just focused on the community.” -Business Insider
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, meanwhile, is claiming ignorance - telling CBS This Morning co-host Norah O'Donnell "we absolutely did not pay anyone to create fake news - that they have assured me was not happening."
In their Wednesday exposé - the culmination of interviews with over 50 current and former company executives, lawmakers, government officials, lobbyists and congressional staff members, the New York Times reported that Facebook had hired GOP PR firm, Defenders, which smeared liberal detractors as Soros operatives - and worked with a sister company to create negative propaganda about competitors Google and Apple.
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
Meanwhile, Sandberg stressed that Facebook was undertaking new security measures, telling O'Donnell: "Our strategy was to shore up the security on Facebook and make major investments there," and that the company had made significant investments in combatting fake news and foreign influence.
"It was not what I was doing nor was it the company's strategy to deflect, to deny or to hire PR firms to do things. That's not the strategy. And I was part of none of that. We've taken great steps, we've made huge investments. We've invested a ton in AI and technology and if you were following us before the election you saw those efforts pay off. We were able to take down lots of stuff over and over, over and over because we were now focused on this," said Sandberg.
When asked if rank-and-file employees are confident in her, Sandberg replied: "Yes, I believe so."