Facebook’s latest scandal has Washington’s full attention

Facebook’s day was consumed with the fallout from Wednesday’s New York Times story about its slow response to Russian interference, which generated a furor greater than anything the company has seen since the Cambridge Analytica data privacy scandal. The company answered its critics, put Mark Zuckerberg on the phone with reporters for an extended question-and-answer session, and moved to shift the conversation to some important moves it is making around content moderation. It’s not yet clear whether the moves will cause the outrage to subside — or whether, as happened with Cambridge Analytica, it will metastasize over the coming days and weeks.

Let’s take a look at the day’s most important developments, in chronological order.

First, Facebook responded to the Times in a point-by-point rebuttal. You can read the blog post here. The company’s main objection to the Times piece is the suggestion that it sought to downplay or cover up Russian interference on the platform before the election. Facebook also says no one discouraged its chief security officer, Alex Stamos, from investigating the Russia problem. (It did not dispute the story’s assertion that Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer, had criticized Stamos for going somewhat rogue with his investigation and possibly leaving the company exposed legally.) The board had Zuckerberg’s back, issuing a statement touting the company’s progress in fighting misinformation.

Second, Facebook held a press call to discuss its second community guidelines enforcement report. The report, which is new as of this year, measures the amount of content policing that Facebook does across its network. It now plans to release such a report quarterly; you can read the new one here; or read Adi Robertson’s helpful gloss here. Big takeaways: governments continue to ask Facebook to take down more and more information; Facebook is reporting levels of bullying and harassment and child exploitation for the first time; and the company deleted 1.5 billion fake accounts in the past six months.

Third, Mark Zuckerberg posted a 4,500-word “blueprint” on the future of content moderation on Facebook. You can read that post here. The post had at least two highly consequential announcements. One, Facebook will once again move to reduce sensationalist content from the News Feed. What struck me was the language Zuckerberg used to discuss this issue — it’s different than anything he has said before. And it goes to the heart of social networks’ role in creating a polarized, destabilized electorate:

Third, Mark Zuckerberg posted a 4,500-word “blueprint” on the future of content moderation on Facebook. You can read that post here. The post had at least two highly consequential announcements. One, Facebook will once again move to reduce sensationalist content from the News Feed. What struck me was the language Zuckerberg used to discuss this issue — it’s different than anything he has said before. And it goes to the heart of social networks’ role in creating a polarized, destabilized electorate:

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