Report: Facebook Pushed Conspiracy Theories, Hired Operatives to Discredit Protesters

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The New York Times report, which is based on interviews with over 50 current and former employees, lawmakers and more, says that COO Sheryl Sandberg and CEO Mark Zuckerberg also ignored warning signs and tried to "conceal" issues from the public.

Facebook hired a Republican opposition-research firm to "discredit activist protesters, in part by linking them to the liberal financier George Soros," according to a New York Times report published Wednesday.

The report details how the social media site's leadership — in particular COO Sheryl Sandberg and CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg — has gone on the attack after numerous scandals, including the revelation in the spring that a data analytics firm with ties to Donald Trump's presidential campaign exploited the private data of more than 50 million Facebook users.

The Times report, which is based on interviews with over 50 current and former employees, lawmakers and more, says that Sandberg and Zuckerberg also ignored warning signs and tried to "conceal" issues from the public.

"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 Times writes.

Sandberg and Zuckerberg declined to comment for the piece, but Facebook did acknowledge its problems in a statement. "This has been a tough time at Facebook and our entire management team has been focused on tackling the issues we face," the statement says. "While these are hard problems we are working hard to ensure that people find our products useful and that we protect our community from bad actors."

The Times piece also details the issues the social media giant has faced with regards to hate speech on its platform. For instance, when then-presidential candidate Trump posted a statement on Facebook calling for "a total and complete shutdown" of Muslims entering the U.S., leadership struggled with whether or not to close his account or remove the post. The company ultimately concluded that the comments did not violate its rules and that "the candidate’s views had public value."

Facebook, which has more than 2.2 billion users around the world, has come under fire over the last year for its inability to curb the spread of misinformation and propaganda on its platform. Further, the private information of its users has been compromised or exploited in two high-profile incidents this year, causing users to distrust the platform and worry that it cannot keep their data safe.