Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg says platform is 'open to regulation'

Chief Operating Officer responds to Cambridge Analytica scandal by acknowledging Facebook can never eliminate 'bad actors'

Jeremy B. White
San Francisco
Thursday 22 March 2018 22:18
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Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg: social media company would be 'open to regulation'

Responding to mounting political pressure over a data misuse scandal, top Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg said the company would be “open to regulation”.

“[CEO] Mark [Zuckerberg’] has said, it’s not a question of ‘if regulation’, it’s a question of ‘what type’”, Ms Sandberg, the company's chief operating officer, said in an interview with CNBC.

Already under heightened scrutiny for facilitating the flow of Russian disinformation during the 2016 presidential campaign, Facebook has been reeling this week from the disclosure that a researcher passed data encompassing millions of user profiles to a firm that worked for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Elected officials have been clamouring for Mr Zuckerberg to publicly testify.

Some members of Congress have already been pushing for more regulations on social media sites like Facebook, including with legislation that would have compelled more transparency around political advertisements. Ms Sandberg noted that Facebook had already committed to releasing more information about paid content and downplayed repercussions for the company's bottom line.

“We’re not looking at these tradeoffs like ‘oh, it’s going to hurt our business’”, Ms Sandberg said, adding that “peoples’ trust is the most importing thing”.

The day after CEO Mark Zuckerberg broke a protracted public silence to apologise and promise more stringent restrictions data collection, Ms Sandberg acknowledged that Facebook would never be able to fully root out abuse.

“There will always be bad actors, and I don’t want to minimise that, but we are going to do everything we can to find bad actors”, said Ms Sandberg, who is the company’s chief operating officer.

Echoing Mr Zuckerberg, Ms Sandberg spoke about reestablishing trust by imposing more limits on the user data apps can access and with a sweeping audit of potentially wayward developers.

Facebook has admitted it knew in 2015 that researcher Aleksandr Kogan shared user data with Cambridge Analytica but did not realise until last week that the two had misled Facebook about deleting that information. Ms Sandberg acknowledged officials were too slow to act and to publicly address the violations.

Mark Zuckerberg on Cambridge Analytica: 'I'm really sorry'

“We definitely did not realise the gravity of this issue sooner”, Ms Sandberg said.

“Sometimes, and I would say certainly this past week, we speak too slowly”, she added. “If I could live this past week again I would definitely have had Mark and myself out speaking earlier”.

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