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Facebook Pushes Back Against Claims In Bombshell NY Times Report

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Facebook Pushes Back Against Claims In Bombshell NY Times Report
In a new article, The New York Times made staggering accusations about the company's culture and practices.
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Facebook is denying some of the accusations made in a staggering report from The New York Times

The Times published a lengthy story Wednesday evening that outlined several allegations about the social network's company culture and practices.

It first accused Facebook of knowing about Russian interference on the platform as early as spring 2016 and jabbed the social network for not mentioning Russia by name in a 2017 report analyzing fake news on the site.

The Times also said Facebook didn't take down posts from President Donald Trump about banning Muslim immigrants because the tech giant feared backlash from Trump supporters.

The report also says Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg coordinated wide-ranging lobby efforts as a form of damage control for Facebook's role in Russian election interference. That reportedly started with hiring a conservative D.C.-based PR firm, Definers Public Affairs, to dig up and publish dirt on Facebook's critics and competitors. According to the Times, that campaign also involved portraying liberal philanthropist George Soros as being linked to an anti-Facebook movement.

But in a statement and in a call with reporters Thursday, the social network denied some of those claims and defended many of its own actions. 

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg directly addressed the Times' story, first responding to the allegations surrounding Russian meddling. He acknowledged that the company didn't respond quickly enough to Russian interference. But, according to Zuckerberg, not calling out Russia in Facebook's 2017 report on fake news was a conscious decision. He said the company wanted to leave determining the source of misinformation up to U.S. intelligence agencies.

As far as declining to take down President Trump's posts on the Muslim immigration ban, Facebook said his comments simply didn't violate its community standards.

The company also denies that it asked the PR firm to pay for or write articles on Facebook's behalf or spread misinformation. But Zuckerberg says Facebook has ended its relationship with Definers and that Facebook will make sure it's not working with similar companies going forward.

This obviously isn't the first time Facebook's been at the center of intense scrutiny over apparent misuses of its platform. It's still reeling from 2016 election interference, along with the Cambridge Analytica data scandal, when tens of millions of users' personal information was shared without their explicit consent. And earlier this week, the company announced hundreds of thousands of people had been following a series of fake accounts that were taken down just ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.

After addressing the Times report, Zuckerberg announced the company will put together an independent body to oversee content removal appeals in order to promote more transparency on the platform.

Additional reporting from Newsy affiliate CNN