Facebook Forces NYT to Quietly Delete Unflattering Reference to Sheryl Sandberg
Facebook Forces to Quietly Delete Unflattering Reference to Sheryl Sandberg
by | 4:42 pm, March 20th, 2018The apparently offers powerful third parties the ability to edit away–that is, to delete from the internet–unfavorable coverage appearing in the paper of record’s online edition.
One such entity afforded the privilege is Facebook. And this has legal experts raising antitrust concerns.
Last night, the broke regarding the pending departure of from Facebook. Stamos is currently the company’s chief information security officer and the official largely responsible for tracking down the Russian troll farm influence and illicit campaign-related advertising facilitated through the Facebook platform. His duties have since been reassigned.
The ‘ original story made reference to Facebook COO –and mentioned her “consternation” at Stamos’ efforts to shepherd the tech giant towards being more transparent about Russian trolls’ electoral interference. Here’s the original paragraph in question:
Mr. Stamos had been a strong advocate inside the company for investigation and disclosing Russian activity on Facebook, often to the consternation of other top executives, including Sheryl Sandberg, the social network’s chief operating officer, according to the current and former employees, who asked not to be identified discussing internal matters.
This morning, however, readers noticed the sole reference to Sandberg’s displeasure with Stamos’ transparency efforts–viz. Russia in particular–was wiped clean off the ether. Now, Sandberg’s name and the story’s only reference to her alleged role in frustrating Stamos’ attempts to highlight and root out Russian troll influence on the platform are gone because someone at the replaced the entire sentence.
Instead of an obvious reference to Facebook COO Sandberg, the ‘ readership will note a vague reference to the fact that Stamos’ anti-Russian transparency efforts were “met with resistance by colleagues.” There’s also no longer any explicit mention that Sandberg was one of those colleagues in the story. In other words, readers will now see nothing to suggest Sandberg had a problem with Stamos’ work related to Russia.
with the noted the believed-to-be import of the since-altered sentence-graf in a tweet sent He wrote:
Sheryl led the cover-up? “Mr. Stamos had been a strong advocate inside the company for investigating and disclosing Russian activity on Facebook, often to the consternation of other top executives, including Sheryl Sandberg…”
A discussion regarding the decision soon began on Twitter after , the campaign director for , noted the deletion had occurred without a correction or clarification being issued by the .
Three reporters worked on the story regarding Stamos’ eventual ouster: , and . Walters and subsequently reached out to each reporter who worked on the story. Neither Frenkel nor Shane responded to repeat requests for comment.
Perlroth, however, confirmed that the change occurred after Facebook’s public relations team reached out to the –some time after the story was published.
In later comments, Perlroth downplayed the change, stating that the “regularly” engages in such practices. Perloth also defended the newer version of the article as substantially similar.
reached out to Facebook’s public relations firm for further comment and confirmation but no response was forthcoming at the time of publication.
To be clear, the ‘ original reporting does not appear to be incorrect nor is there any indication this is the case. Indeed, Perlroth vehemently disagreed when asked if any of the Times’ reporting was incorrect.
Media watch dogs and corporate concentration experts immediately seized upon the glaring shift in coverage.
, Executive Director of the Revolving Door Project, at the , is a noted anti-trust expert. In comments provided to Hauser explained the anti-trust and monopoly-like implications of Facebook’s muscling the He said:
[A]t the same time as Facebook and the s compete, Facebook is also an essential platform for the to reach readers, especially on phones. The — in fact, all advertising funded media — faces risks every time they report on Facebook in a way that reflects badly on Facebook. No company should be allowed to be as influential as Facebook while holding so much power over the media that a free society relies on to scrutinize powerful institutions. Facebook’s ability to flex its muscles over even the legendary should scare us about what they can do to smaller outlets contemplating negative coverage of Facebook practices.
When asked as to whether current law could foreseeably deal with the potential trust-busting of a social media platform like Facebook, Hauser noted, “The likelihood that Facebook can intimidate the underscores the need to break up Facebook even if it is not charging advertisers or consumers provably ‘excessive’ prices.”
Hauser cited to both the Sherman Antitrust Act and the Clayton Act as legal sources of authority that government and regulators could rely upon to hold tech giants more accountable–or even to break them up.
As for what that would take aside from statutory authority? Hauser said, “An executive branch dedicated to setting forth new interpretations of those statutes consistent with their explicit and historical meanings could initiate a new wave of ‘trust busting.’ It’s a matter of newly restored will, not newly passed law.”
The web archived version of the original story, “Facebook Security Chief Said to Leave After Clashes Over Disinformation” . Links to images of the changes . Additionally, this article has been edited to reflect the proper spellings of names.