The indictment of sixteen Russian individuals and entities by special counsel Robert Mueller makes notable mentions of the groups’ use of Facebook, mentioning the social media giant thirty-five times. The group allegedly used the platform to purchase ads, adopt fake personas, organize fake political rallies and even try to suppress minority votes.
Facebook has been heavily criticized for its role in the Russia affair, specifically its lack of cooperation with Congress in the early part of their investigations. The company was slow in conducting internal investigations to ascertain the depth and breadth of Russia’s use of the platform and was less than forthcoming in handing that information over to Congress once it had been found. Reportedly it was only under the threat of substantial regulation of their advertising business that they became cooperative.
The company’s image was tarnished a little further when last week, in the wake of Mueller’s announcement, Rob Goldman, a VP for advertising for Facebook took to Twitter to state his views on the indictment and what it revealed about the perpetrators’ activity on Facebook.
Goldman wrote that Facebook execs welcomed the indictment but seemed to imply that there were key facts about the story that had been gotten wrong. “The majority of the Russian ad spend happened AFTER the election. We shared that fact, but very few outlets have covered it because it doesn’t align with the main media narrative of Tump [sic] and the election,” Goldman wrote.
That view, along with others expressed in several tweets that day by Goldman, seemed to undermine Mueller’s findings.
“I have seen all of the Russian ads and I can say very definitively that swaying the election was *NOT* the main goal,” Goldman wrote in another tweet.
The majority of the Russian ad spend happened AFTER the election. We shared that fact, but very few outlets have covered it because it doesn’t align with the main media narrative of Tump and the election. https://t.co/2dL8Kh0hof
Later that day, Goldman, in an internal message, apologized to Facebook employees and reiterated the company’s goal of preventing abuse on the platform. “I wanted to apologize for having tweeted my own view about Russian interference without having it reviewed by anyone internally. The tweets were my own personal view and not Facebook’s. I conveyed my view poorly. The Special Counsel has far more information about what happened [than] I do—so seeming to contradict his statements was a serious mistake on my part,” Goldman wrote.
“And to all of you who have worked so hard over the last six months to demonstrate that we understand our responsibility to prevent abuse on Facebook—and are working hard to do better in the future—my deepest apologies,” he added.