Facebook is paying kids to let it spy on their phones. (Chesnot/Getty Images)

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NYT Report: Facebook Ignored Election Meddling in Favor of Global Growth

CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg are not painted in a favorable light in the piece.

A new investigation by the New York Times claims Facebook knew about Russian interference before the 2016 elections but leadership at the organization failed to deal with it in an appropriate manner.

Based on interviews with more than 50 people, the piece details the way Facebook instituted delays, issued denials and enlisted Washington lobbyists in order to fight back against Russian meddling investigations.

The story makes the case that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg underestimated the company’s problems, were not prepared to correct them, and perhaps even ignored them purposefully in favor of expanding the company’s global appeal.

Per the report: “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.”

The NYT piece also says Facebook hired the PR firm Definers Public Affairs to actively promote negative stories about competitors like Apple and Google to draw attention away from Facebook.

In a note on the platform, Facebook says it has cut ties with Definers and also says “there are a number of inaccuracies in the story.”

“We’ve acknowledged publicly on many occasions – including before Congress – that we were too slow to spot Russian interference on Facebook, as well as other misuse.” the unsigned note reads. “But in the two years since the 2016 Presidential election, we’ve invested heavily in more people and better technology to improve safety and security on our services. While we still have a long way to go, we’re proud of the progress we have made in fighting misinformation, removing bad content and preventing foreign actors from manipulating our platform.”

The fallout from the story could be far-reaching as Recode is already asking: “Who does Facebook fire?”

Read the full story at The New York Times