Fact Check: Fact Check: What Mark Zuckerberg Said About Facebook, Privacy and Russia

Home Tech Fact Check: Fact Check: What Mark Zuckerberg Said About Facebook, Privacy and Russia

Fact Check: What Mark Zuckerberg Is Saying About Facebook, Data and Elections


Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, testifies in front of a joint session of the Senate Judiciary and Commerce Committees.Published OnCreditImage by Tom Brenner/The New York Times

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, is testifying before Congress on Tuesday and Wednesday to answer questions about the social network’s failure to protect the data of millions of its users and its role in Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Here are some of Mr. Zuckerberg’s claims, which we fact checked. The page will be updated throughout the hearings.

“We made changes in 2014 that would have prevented what happened with Cambridge Analytica from happening today.”

  • Not quite …

Cambridge Analytica, a political data firm, used information harvested from as many as 87 million Facebook users several years ago to build psychological profiles of voters. Facebook did announce changes in 2014 to limit the access that developers would have to data about Facebook users, but they were not implemented until 2015.

When asked when Facebook learned of Russian influence operations on the social network, Mr. Zuckerberg said “right around the time of the 2016 election itself.”

  • This contradicts earlier statements.

Facebook has long maintained that it did not learn about how Russian agents used its platform to influence the presidential election until the summer of 2017. While Alex Stamos, Facebook’s chief information officer, warned the company that Russian hackers may have been active on the platform in the summer of 2016, he has said he was looking at cybersecurity breaches, not disinformation campaigns tied to the elections.

Tuesday was the first time that Mr. Zuckerberg cited 2016 as the date when the company identified new operations linked to the election.

“You’re not allowed to have a fake account on Facebook. Your content has to be authentic.”

  • This is true, but …

Facebook requires people to register for accounts on the social network with their real names. But the fact is that fake accounts and false pages have persisted on the social network.

Russian agents set up accounts on Facebook with false identities before the 2016 presidential election. And just this week, Facebook removed a popular Black Lives Matter page after it was discovered to be inauthentic.

Sheera Frenkel covers cybersecurity from San Francisco. Previously, she spent over a decade in the Middle East as a foreign correspondent, reporting for BuzzFeed, NPR, The Times of London and McClatchy Newspapers. @sheeraf

Linda Qiu is a fact-check reporter, based in Washington. She came to the Times in 2017 from the fact-checking service PolitiFact. @ylindaqiu


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