Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg continued the social network’s apology tour with an appearance today on Fox News Channel, where she talked about stepped-up efforts to safeguard user privacy and measures to safeguard against manipulation during the upcoming elections.
Sandberg’s interview on The Daily Briefing with Dana Perino — her second TV interview of the day — seeks to contain the fallout from the Cambridge Analytica data scandal ahead of CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s appearance next week before Congress. Earlier this week, Facebook acknowledged that personal data about as many as 87 million users may have been leaked to the political consultancy that was advising Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
Sandberg acknowledged, once again, that Facebook didn’t do enough to protect users’ data, adding, “I’m really sorry for that.” She articulated the steps the social network is taking to confront the problem, from restricting what information apps can extract from users, to doubling to 20,000 the number of people working on safety and security issues, to handing users new tools for controlling access to their information.
“Starting Monday, we’re going to start rolling out, all around the world, and right at the top of your news feed, a very easy link which shows you all the apps you’re connected to and shared your data with and a very easy way to delete them,” Sandberg said.
Pressed about whether 20,000 people could protect a user base of 2 billion, Sandberg said Facebook is ramping up as quickly as possible, and employing technology, to crack on abuse.
Sandberg deftly shifted the conversation to talk about how Facebook is able to learn from, and address, misconduct on the platform. She talked about Russian operatives meddling in the 2016 presidential election by circulating fraudulent and divisive posts on the social network. The company said earlier this week it had removed more than 270 accounts and pages controlled by Russia’s Internet Research Agency, a notorious troll factory.
The accounts were in Russian, addressing users in neighboring Azerbaijan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.
“A lot of people said, well, those are in Russian, targeted at Russians in Russia,” said Sandberg. “But our answer was, ‘These are Russian trolls, this is deceptive content, it has no place on our platform in the United States, in Russia, anywhere in the world.”
Asked whether there was a way to prove the Russian propaganda influenced the election, Sandberg said Facebook gave users a way to know if they were duped by one of these posts. And, preparing for the 2018 election cycle, talked about Facebook’s efforts to combat the flow of fake news.
“We’re working really hard on false news. People want accurate information on Facebook, and we want them to have accurate information on Facebook,” said Sandberg. “So what we’re doing is we’re working with third-party fact-checkers, everyone from The AP to The Weekly Standard.“
Facebook flags bogus content, dramatically decreases distribution and marks related articles that offer another view. That, naturally, led to a discussion about how Facebook’s decision to change the algorithm for its newsfeed — reducing the number of posts users see from publishers — in favor of news from “trustworthy” sources, is harming conservative (and some liberal) sites.
“That change really meant that the spamming, the click-ey, the more outrageous stuff, that dialed down,” Sandberg said. “And the stuff that people trusted — both conservative and liberal — got dialed up.”