Home » Social Media » Delay, Deny and Deflect: How Facebook’s Leaders Fought Through Crisis

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

16 November 2018

From The New York Times:

Sheryl Sandberg was seething.

Inside Facebook’s Menlo Park, Calif., headquarters, top executives gathered in the glass-walled conference room of its founder, Mark Zuckerberg. It was September 2017, more than a year after Facebook engineers discovered suspicious Russia-linked activity on its site, an early warning of the Kremlin campaign to disrupt the 2016 American election. Congressional and federal investigators were closing in on evidence that would implicate the company.

But it wasn’t the looming disaster at Facebook that angered Ms. Sandberg. It was the social network’s security chief, Alex Stamos, who had informed company board members the day before that Facebook had yet to contain the Russian infestation. Mr. Stamos’s briefing had prompted a humiliating boardroom interrogation of Ms. Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, and her billionaire boss. She appeared to regard the admission as a betrayal.

“You threw us under the bus!” she yelled at Mr. Stamos, according to people who were present.

The clash that day would set off a reckoning — for Mr. Zuckerberg, for Ms. Sandberg and for the business they had built together. In just over a decade, Facebook has connected more than 2.2 billion people, a global nation unto itself that reshaped political campaigns, the advertising business and daily life around the world. Along the way, Facebook accumulated one of the largest-ever repositories of personal data, a treasure trove of photos, messages and likes that propelled the company into the Fortune 500.

. . . .

But as evidence accumulated that Facebook’s power could also be exploited to disrupt elections, broadcast viral propaganda and inspire deadly campaigns of hate around the globe, Mr. Zuckerberg and Ms. Sandberg stumbled. Bent on growth, the pair ignored warning signs and then sought to conceal them from public view. At critical moments over the last three years, they were distracted by personal projects, and passed off security and policy decisions to subordinates, according to current and former executives.

. . . .

But as Facebook grew, so did the hate speech, bullying and other toxic content on the platform. When researchers and activists in Myanmar, India, Germany and elsewhere warned that Facebook had become an instrument of government propaganda and ethnic cleansing, the company largely ignored them. Facebook had positioned itself as a platform, not a publisher. Taking responsibility for what users posted, or acting to censor it, was expensive and complicated. Many Facebook executives worried that any such efforts would backfire.

Link to the rest at The New York Times

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19 Comments to “Delay, Deny and Deflect: How Facebook’s Leaders Fought Through Crisis”

    • “Of course we didn’t ‘pay’ for fake news, we simply cherry-pick the ads/fake news offerings that say what we want them to say. There will always be some crackpot leaning the way we want things to appear to be – and they’re more than happy – eager in fact – to pay ‘us’!’

  1. “They trust me … idiots.”

    Me, I like how TNYT thinks it’s anywhere near over.

    ‘Delay, Deny and Deflect and outright lying: How Facebook’s Leaders are fighting Through their current Crisis as trust and their ad money start to dry up.’

  2. I have always wondered how long Facebook would last. I’ve never seen much in their technology, except perhaps their ability to scale, but Google, Amazon, and Microsoft are good at scaling too. I’ve never seen anything special about their interface, kind of stodgy to my eye. I’ve never seen any special moat around them that protects them from competition.

    The only special sauce I see is being in the right place at the right time. That sauce goes stale when challenged hard.

    • Google has the same “one trick pony” problem but they have at least tried to develop new, significant revenue streams.
      Facebook, even when they dabble in hardware, it’s still in service of gossip-mongering.

      A lot of the Facebook angst could’ve been avoided if people realized their business is gossip and urban legend instead of news and marketing.

      There’s money in gossip but the Onion is a more reliable news source. Folks really should’ve known better.

      • Google may be a one trick pony on the revenue side, but they certainly have many tricks on the technology side. I would give Google far better odds on developing new revenue streams than FB.

        • Anything is better than nothing. 😉

          Google’s been at it for twenty years, tried a lot of things, and abandoned most. Very Balmer-ish.

          They are aware of their vulnerability so they’ve taken to buying promising startups and they have a few nascent businesses, like NEST, but even NEST hasn’t grown much since ALPHABET bought them. Chromebooks have done better but it’s mostly through the efforts of the OEMs.

          A good example of Google’s “flighty” attitude and lack of commitment is their treatment of their TV initiatives. They’re up to their third attempt and barely mention AndroidTV any more.

          NVIDIA has shown a bigger commitment and done more to promote AndroidTV than Google, the platform holder. In 4 years they are the only hardware player to give it any kind of meaningful support. Meanwhile both FireTV and Roku have built up their offerings and acquired significant support from TV vendors.

          Google is like Amazon in playing in all sorts of areas, from software to hardware to services, but unlike Amazon, they don’t really commit. Even to things that eat up a lot of cash like their Fiber to the curb project.

          Or how about Android and the legal messes they got into for cutting corners and failing to do due diligence on IP issues? They killed pretty much every smartphone OS except iOS yet when all expenses and liabilities are tallied up they’re still in the red and probably always will be if the Oracle verdict stands.

          So, points for recognizing their vulnerability but demerits for the halfhearted (but expensive) way they try to address it. Very B&N of them, when you get down to it.

  3. “I’ve never seen any special moat around them that protects them from competition.”

    Anyone can enter their market and compete. But the networking effect is very strong, and gets stronger for each user as time passes. That strengthens the entire network. So they are not protected from competition, but the competition has to give consumers a very good reason to switch.

    Even with all the battering FB is taking lately, there doesn’t seem to be a strong contender. It’s more likely the model will fade away as people tire of it. It won’t be replaced, but something else will take up consumer attention

  4. People use Facebook because “everybody uses Facebook”.
    When the latter stops being true, so will the former.
    It’ll take a while but when the end comes, it’ll come fast.

    • Now would be a good time for some bright mind to come up with a competitive alternative to the Facebook gossip machine. My immediate thought is something that would build on interests. If I gossip about chinchillas, prompt me to join with other chinchilla enthusiasts in addition to family and friends. You could build a feedback mechanism that picked out patterns of discussion and use the patterns to prompt compatible individuals to join together.

      Not a great idea– all I am saying is that the FB formula is not unassailable. Try 20 similar ideas and something would stick to the wall.

      • Oh, there’s lots of vertical communities already out there.
        The biggest is almost certainly XBOX Live. PLAYSTATION NETWORK and STEAM are also really big. YouTube Channels to an extent. Lots of blogs anchor smaller but robust communities.

        But by definition, vertical communities are niches and facebook’s appeal is its horizontal reach, crossing many verticals. That draws in the money that feeds them. Verticals just don’t draw the big bucks.

        • I can see combining vertical with wide horizontal. Life is filled with niches with wide horizontal aspects.

          And I’m not sure about the big bucks absent from niches: not too long ago, the most expensive personal data from one of the big data agencies was for diabetics.

          I did a little study of what a person’s collected browsing data was worth on the open market and discovered that my own data was in the whopping ten dollar range because I am diabetic. Most people’s data was less than a dollar. Of course, diabetics are a valuable group because the are compelled to purchase expensive meds and supplies, but I would guess that if niches are not high priced, it is because they are not exploited well rather than the potential value of the data.

          • Your guess is almost certainly true.
            Very few industries really understand niche marketing. The biggest exceptions I can think of are video, gaming, and fast food. A few companies here and there rely on niche marketing but for most it’s out of necessity rather than purposeful market segmentation; selling the same product with different messages to different audiences.

            One area that comes to mind as a possible beneficiary is books where cross genre books could benefit from (at least) different blurbs for different genre listings. A romantic suspense book could be listed in both thrillers and romance with the same cover but different blurbs/summaries to entice different audiences. Quirky adventures and fantasies can be marketed as comedies, too.

            Instead, publishers, like many other businesses, go horizontal, aiming at the lowest common denominator, which more often than not muddies and dilutes the message.

            Movie trailers are a good object of study for the virtues of vertical versus horizontal.

  5. This thread prompted me to do something I have been meaning to do for a while. I actually deleted my FB account. It was easy. Here’s the email they sent.

    Your account is scheduled for permanent deletion

    Facebook
    Fri, Nov 16, 9:46 PM (13 hours ago)
    to me

    Facebook

    Terrence,

    Your account is scheduled for permanent deletion.

    Facebook will start deleting your account in 30 days. After Dec 16, 2018, you won’t be able to access the account or any of the content you added.

    To cancel the deletion of your account and retrieve any of the content or information you have added, go to Facebook.

    In the deletion process they also said it would take another 90 days to delete all my stuff from FB

    • Too bad they’re only removing your (and others) interface to see your ‘account’, it will live on as a ‘ghost’ account with your site visits to places that link the facepalm (like this one.)

    • I suspect if I even sign onto some service with a FB link, they will reinstate me. I have never used that sign-in service, but their wording on the delete page was both ambiguous and ominous.

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