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Cover: Harper

"Oh f---, how did we miss this?" Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg asked, looking around at the somber faces of his top executives, the N.Y. Times' Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang write in their book, "An Ugly Truth: Inside Facebook’s Battle for Domination," out Tuesday.

In an excerpt provided first to Axios, the authors write that the executives met Dec. 9, 2016, for a briefing on what Facebook's security team knew about Russian meddling on the platform during the election won by Donald Trump.

The security team, it turns out, had first spotted Russian activity on the platform in March 2016. But Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg were just being told about it nine months later.

  • The eight-page handout for the meeting — written by Alex Stamos, then Facebook's chief security officer — "acknowledged that Facebook was sitting on a trove of information proving that a foreign government had tried to meddle in the U.S. election."

Frenkel and Kang, in a chapter called "Company Over Country," write that "no one else spoke as Zuckerberg and Sandberg drilled their chief security officer":

Why had they been kept in the dark? How aggressive were the Russians? And why, asked a visibly agitated Sandberg, had she not known that Stamos had put together a special team to look at Russian election interference? Did they need to share what Stamos had found with lawmakers immediately, and did the company have a legal obligation beyond that?

What happened: The security team "had uncovered information that no one, including the U.S. government, had previously known," the authors write.

  • "Stamos felt that he had been trying to sound the alarm on Russia for months."
  • Stamos said: "It was well within my remit to investigate foreign activity within the platform. And we had appropriately briefed the people in our reporting chain ... It became clear after that that it wasn’t enough."

At the meeting, "Stamos gave a somber assessment of where they stood, admitting that no one at the company knew the full extent of the Russian election interference," we learn from "An Ugly Truth."

  • "Zuckerberg demanded that the executives get him answers, so they promised to devote their top engineering talent and resources to investigate what Russia had done on the platform."

Update ... Facebook spokesperson Dani Lever replied in a statement to Axios:

  • "In 2016, we and those in the government and media did not fully recognize the nature and scope of foreign interference in our elections. Since 2017, we have removed over 150 covert influence operations originating in more than 50 counties, and a dedicated investigative team continues to vigilantly protect democracy on our platform both here and abroad."

Go deeper: Read a N.Y. Times adaptation (subscription).

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Go deeper

FTC accuses Facebook of "buy or bury" scheme in new antitrust complaint

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Federal Trade Commission on Thursday took a second shot at alleging Facebook is an illegal monopoly in a new complaint that accuses the social media company of buying up potential competitors or thwarting their access to the platform.

Why it matters: The FTC, now led by Big Tech critic Lina Khan, is trying to save its case against Facebook after a judge dismissed its first attempt.

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France recalls ambassadors from U.S. and Australia over submarine deal

Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L), French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (C), and French ambassador to the U.S. Philippe Etienne. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

France has taken the extraordinary step of recalling its ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia after both countries blindsided their French allies with a new military pact and submarine contract, the French Foreign Ministry announced on Friday.

The backstory: While sealing an agreement with the U.S. and U.K. to acquire nuclear submarines, Australia ripped up an existing $90 billion submarine deal with France. That led senior French officials to accuse the U.S. of a "stab in the back."

Updated 18 mins ago - World

In reversal, Pentagon now says drone strike killed 10 Afghan civilians

Caskets for the dead are carried towards the gravesite as relatives and friends attend a mass funeral for members of a family that is said to have been killed in a U.S. drone airstrike, in Kabul on Aug. 30. Photo: Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A U.S. drone strike launched on Aug. 29 killed 10 civilians in Afghanistan, including seven children, rather than the Islamic State extremists the Biden administration claimed it targeted, the Pentagon said Friday.

Why it matters: U.S. Central Command said at the time that officials "know" the drone strike "disrupted an imminent ISIS-K threat" to Kabul's airport, and that they were "confident we successfully hit the target."