Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said that the social-media company failed to anticipate foreign interference aimed at disrupting the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Speaking onstage during a question-and-answer session at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, Ms. Sandberg said the company was prepared to thwart hackers in advance of the 2016 election but wasn’t ready to combat the spread of misinformation from Russia and elsewhere.
“We really missed it,” Ms. Sandberg said. “Everyone missed it.”
Since then, she said, Facebook has created safeguards to curb misinformation. The company ramped up its engagement with governments around the world to prevent election interference and launched a verification program with third-party fact-checkers to reduce the spread of hoaxes.
During a 45-minute conversation, Ms. Sandberg addressed topics including data privacy, growing calls for regulation of big tech companies and Facebook’s current approach to mergers and acquisitions.
Ms. Sandberg’s appearance comes amid increasing scrutiny of big tech companies by government regulators. Facebook is being scrutinized by investigators at the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, and the Justice Department is preparing an antitrust investigation of Alphabet Inc.’s Google.
Ms. Sandberg said that Facebook is calling for some regulation of the company—echoing an op-ed by Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg published in the Washington Post earlier this year—adding that Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation policy is a “good blueprint” for U.S. lawmaking.
“We are very much trying to usher in the next era,” Ms. Sandberg said. “We are very much working with governments to write the right rules.”
During the question-and-answer session, Ms. Sandberg also addressed calls by critics for antitrust action against Facebook. Antitrust action is meant to preserve choices for consumers, Ms. Sandberg said, and Facebook users already have a variety of alternatives for social networking.
“Absolutely you could share [a photo] on Instagram, but you could also share it on other services,” Ms. Sandberg said.
Toward the end of the conversation, Ms. Sandberg said that Facebook doesn’t have any big acquisitions in the pipeline currently but noted that Facebook has made small acquisitions in the past. Instagram only had 13 employees when it was acquired, Ms. Sandberg said, an example of a small company that grew quickly after it was acquired by Facebook.
Although Ms. Sandberg experienced challenges during her tenure as chief operating officer of Facebook, she said that she stayed at the company through the recent tumult because she felt a responsibility to fix the social network’s problems.
“Through all of it I really believe so deeply in what happens on Facebook,” she said.
Source: The Wall Street Journal