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Sheryl Sandberg Talks Facebook’s Response to ‘False News’

February 28, 2018, 11:46 PM UTC

Sheryl Sandberg knows that Facebook is coming off a bumpy year, and that the road ahead doesn’t appear any smoother.

To say 2017 was a challenging year feels like a bit of an understatement . . .” she said on Wednesday at a Morgan Stanley investor conference in San Francisco. “We are taking a number of steps to show that we take full responsibility for everything that happens on our platform.”

Specifically, Sandberg cited the controversy around fake news and misinformation spread on Facebook. The company has also been criticized by users and the political leaders over the fact that fake accounts linked to Russia churned out divisive posts and interacted with Americans in the lead up to the recent U.S. presidential election.

Sandberg said on Wednesday that “it will never be 100% possible” to eliminate all “bad” content from Facebook, but she said the company continues taking steps to fight “false news,” including hiring teams of third-party fact-checkers and vowing to increase the transparency and security around political ads that appear on the service.

“We are working hard and making sure all of the information on Facebook is from authentic accounts,” she said. “Because fake accounts are actually the source of a lot of the false news, and they were the source of all of the election interference we saw.”

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Sandberg added that, contrary to popular opinion, fake news on Facebook is usually more “economically motivated” than driven by politics. “People are writing outlandish headlines so they can get clicks, so they can make ad money,” she said. “So, probably the most important thing we can do is go after the economic incentive and make sure that people who are purveying fake/false news are not making money from it.”

“People want real news on Facebook, we want them to have real news on Facebook,” Sandberg continued. “So, we’re working very hard in this area.”

Appearing at the conference along with Facebook CFO David Wehner, Sandberg also took the opportunity to “answer a question that wasn’t asked” near the end of the session. Referring to the ongoing “MeToo” movement, Sandberg, the author of the book Lean In, about women in the workplace, noted that this is an “extremely important moment for women” with regard to standing up to harassment and seeking more equality in the workplace. Citing a recent survey that found male managers are now more worried about spending alone time with their female subordinates as a result of the recent uptick in harassment claims, Sandberg urged male business leaders to “make sure your firm access is equal” because “even before #MeToo, women were much less likely be mentored than men.”

“Not harassing us is important but basic,” she said. “We need more. We need an equal share of time and attention that gets women into the roles they need.”