Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, (l) and COO Sheryl Sandberg, (r).  Photos by Bloomberg. Illustration by Mike Sullivan (edited)
Policy

The Facebook Lawyer Trying to Prevent Election Chaos

Photo: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, (l) and COO Sheryl Sandberg, (r). Photos by Bloomberg. Illustration by Mike Sullivan (edited)

After vowing for four years that it would move quickly to curb misinformation around a heated U.S. general election, Facebook faced a critical moment late in the evening Tuesday.

Knowing that ballot counting would drag on into the week, and with President Donald Trump already spreading doubt about the results to his tens of millions of followers, Facebook’s policy team asked to add an alert at the top of Instagram and Facebook feeds in the U.S. saying that votes were still being counted. That’s when Facebook’s Strategic Response unit, a secretive crisis management team designed to quickly handle the highest-profile issues that Facebook encounters, got involved.

Its leader, Molly Cutler, routed the request from policy staffers to Facebook’s senior executives—communicating remotely via private chats, emails and Zoom calls—and within a few minutes relayed their approval back to the company’s product team to implement. By early Wednesday, users opening the apps were seeing a banner saying, “The winner of the 2020 US presidential election has not been projected yet,” linking to live results from news outlets.

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