Its been a big week for Facebook. But not necessarily in a good way. On Wednesday, the New York Times published a report that indicated that Facebook knew about the possible issues coming their way over the last two years, but they chose to ignore the warning signs. The report further indicates that they were distracted by other projects. Since then Sheryl Sandberg and Mark Zuckerberg have pushed back saying that it’s simply not true. But now, Alex Stamos might be giving us the full picture. Alex Stamos, who is the former chief of security for Facebook wrote an opinion piece for the Washington Post on Saturday outlining what actually happened.
Stamos agreed that Facebook “stuck to a public-communications strategy of minimization and denial” and “should have responded to these threats much earlier and handled disclosure in a more transparent manner.” But he said, “no one at the company ever told me not to examine Russian activity, nor did anyone attempt to lie about our findings.” He also said the world’s largest social network wasn’t alone in making mistakes.
So who else should we be pointing the blame at? According to Stamos:
“The massive US intelligence community failed to provide actionable intelligence on Russia’s information-warfare goals and capabilities before the election and offered a dearth of assistance afterward.”
Stamos went on to say that lawmakers weren’t helping thanks to their “public grandstanding at investigative hearings”. He’s not wrong on this one. That’s typically what politicians do when their backs are against the wall – for better or for worse. He also called them out for their “failure to establish facts, effectively oversee the executive branch and provide for the common defense”. And those words, are fighting words, my friends. Why do I say that? Well, he’s basically saying that while Facebook knew that there was something amiss, so did those in charge. Which definitely feeds into this larger conspiracy theory that we’ve all been hearing about over the last couple of years.
In addition, Stamos said that the media “rewarded” Russian hackers by publishing thousands of stories about emails stolen from top Democrats. Meaning, the media was just as much to blame by releasing the emails for all the world to see.
But what is interesting (and commendable) is that Stamos suggests that it’s everyone’s responsibility to make amends. “It’s time for us to come together to protect our society from future information operations”. But how do we do that? Stamos suggests that the law needs to “limit the ability of all players… to micro-target tiny segments of the population with divisive political narratives”. He also suggests that Twitter, Facebook, and Google need to help with the development of legislation instead of opposing it.
Again – he’s not wrong. Regulation is a nasty four letter word in the eyes of the tech industry, but why not come together and help create that technology? Rather than opposing it altogether.
I’m really happy to see Stamos’ side of things as it relates to Facebook because it’s been a lot of he said/she said, and that’s not fair. Stamos no longer has a horse in this race, so he doesn’t really have anything to lose in this regard. Will this make a difference? One can only hope!