Facebook was not aware of just how much Russia was doing to affect the outcome of the 2016 U.S. election—but they were warned.
A Sunday story by The Washington Post reported that former President Barack Obama tried twice to warn Zuckerberg about the risk of fake news on the election, specifically naming Russia. The first time was as early as June 2016, according to anonymous sources speaking to WaPo. This report comes a month after Facebook came forward with 3,000 Russian-linked ads sold during the 2016 election.
That meeting between Obama and Zuckerberg is not breaking news. A New York Times Magazine article from April also noted the meeting, but WaPo‘s report explores more of the conversation and the conflict.
Zuckerberg reportedly said his team did know of the risk. Facebook’s security team had uncovered suspicious accounts from a Kremlin-backed hacking team APT28 in June last year. But according to WaPo, Zuckerberg downplayed the influence and said this type of problem was not widespread and that there was also very little they could do at the time.
Still, Obama reportedly did step in to issue warning—but without knowing just what the Russians were up to. And yet, at that time, Facebook did not uncover a specific tie between Russian operatives, Facebook ads, and the 2016 election.
“We believe in the power of democracy, which is why we’re taking this work on elections integrity so seriously, and have come forward at every opportunity to share what we’ve found,” Elliot Schrage, vice president for public policy and communications, said in a statement following WaPo‘s story.
“At the same time, we will keep doing our part to help people participate in democracies around the world – by connecting them with information on how to vote, on who their representatives are, and on what issues are at stake,” the statement continued.
A Facebook spokesperson told Mashable earlier this month that they were transparent with the FBI and the investigation and immediately sent reports to officials when they were uncovered. Prior to the election, the company found no evidence of Russian-linked ads. The 3,000 ads from about $100,000 in spending were uncovered this month.
It seems that there may have been a lack of aligned strategies. Obama aides reportedly regret not doing more to address the issue of Russian accounts on Facebook, according to WaPo.
But now, it’s clear that Sen. Mark Warner from Virginia and former FBI director and special counsel Robert Mueller with his investigation in the Russia election have turned up the heat on Facebook and other digital platforms. Zuckerberg said last week his company will begin better self-regulating themselves to prevent against future attacks on political elections. For example, all political ad creative will be publicly available.