Sheryl Sandberg Lays Out the Plan to Fix Facebook

Sheryl Sandberg - Facebook

Facebook’s apology tour continued Tuesday at the Code Conference as two of its most senior execs laid out their plans to fix the platform in the wake of huge controversies from fake news to misappropriation of user data.

COO Sheryl Sandberg and CTO Mike Schroepfer covered much of the same ground their boss, CEO Mark Zuckerberg, touched on in appearances in front of legislative bodies in the U.S. and U.K.

Sandberg acknowledged her company moved too slowly to confront myriad issues plaguing Facebook, but that they got the message and are working fast to address them.

“We definitely know we’re late,” she said. “We said we’re sorry, but sorry isn’t the point. The point is the action we’re taking. On all of these fronts, we’re thinking about responsibility in a very different ways.”

Schroepfer, who was grilled himself by UK’s Parliament last month, characterized the sweeping changes at the company as “the biggest cultural shift in the 10 years I’ve been there.”

Sandberg and Schroepfer went into extensive detail on how their teams are working to restore the safety and integrity of the platform, touting progress in the past six months at diminishing levels of different kinds of objectionable content on Facebook.

Key to the efforts has been reducing fake accounts, which has been the source of many different problems on the platform. Sandberg disclosed 1.3 billion fake accounts have been pulled down in the last six months across the globe.

Schroepfer also batted down the notion that Facebook was a monopoly that needed to be broken up, citing Silicon Valley rivals from Google to Snap that challenge them on a number of fronts. “We’re honest when we say we feel competition all the time.”

Another key theme Sandberg returned to again and again was the importance of maintaining transparency across all the efforts Facebook is currently engaged in to improve itself. That said, she was also candid about the “arms race” with which Facebook is faced; as aggressively as it plans to move to make changes, a new set of challenges they can barely conceive of is likely right around the bend.

The Facebook execs covered a lot of ground, including what’s being done to disincentivize the economics of clickbait articles; using third-party fact-checkers at the Associated Press across 50 states to combat fake news; minimizing the kind of data usage in third-party apps that proved so problematic with Cambridge Analytica, and extending platform setting regarding GDPR and moving them around the rest of the world.

The execs made an appearance months after the company was forced to answer questions from U.S. and U.K. lawmaker amid growing concerns about proper protection of user data in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica controversy that saw an organization with ties President Trump’s 2016 campaign harvest millions of users’ personal information. Facebook was already in the hot seat for the pervasiveness of fake news on its platform.