Facebook executive to leave the company after public outcry
As Facebook grapples with a backlash over its role in spreading disinformation, an internal dispute over how to handle the threat and the public outcry is resulting in the departure of a senior executive.
The impending exit of that executive — Alex Stamos, Facebook’s chief information security officer — reflects heightened leadership tension at the top of the social network. Much of the internal disagreement is rooted in how much Facebook should publicly share about how nation states misused the platform and debate over organizational changes in the run-up to the 2018 midterm elections, according to current and former employees briefed on the matter.
Mr. Stamos, who plans to leave Facebook by August, had advocated more disclosure around Russian interference of the platform and some restructuring to better address the issues, but was met with resistance by colleagues, said the current and former employees. In December, Mr. Stamos’s day-to-day responsibilities were reassigned to others, they said.
He said he would leave Facebook but was persuaded to stay through August to oversee the transition of his responsibilities and because executives thought his departure would look bad, the people said. He has been overseeing the transfer of his security team to Facebook’s product and infrastructure divisions. His group, which once had 120 people, now has three, the current and former employees said.
Mr. Stamos joined the company from Yahoo in June 2015. He and other Facebook executives, such as Ms. Sandberg, disagreed early on over how proactive the social network should be in policing its own platform, said the people briefed on the matter. In his statement, Mr. Stamos said his relationship with Ms. Sandberg was “productive.”
Mr. Stamos first put together a group of engineers to scour Facebook for Russian activity in June 2016, the month the Democratic National Committee announced it had been attacked by Russian hackers, the current and former employees said.
By November 2016, the team had uncovered evidence that Russian operatives had aggressively pushed DNC leaks and propaganda on Facebook. That same month, Mr. Zuckerberg publicly dismissed the notion that fake news influenced the 2016 election, calling it a “pretty crazy idea.”
In the ensuing months, Facebook’s security team found more Russian disinformation and propaganda on its site, according to the current and former employees. By the spring of 2017, deciding how much Russian interference to disclose publicly became a major source of contention within the company.