Sep 19, 2017

Facebook’s Russia probe firepower

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg at an event in 2016. Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

If you want to get a sense of how seriously Facebook takes the probe into the site's possible role in Russian election interference, note this: Mark Zuckerberg's brain trust in Menlo Park is paying attention.

Between the lines: It's not uncommon for Silicon Valley giants to rely heavily on their Washington offices to play whack-a-mole on minor policy debates so execs can focus on what they view as weightier business challenges. Facebook is breaking from that pattern as questions about Russia heat up.

Sound smart: The full-court press on this issue shows how serious a situation this is for Facebook — and sends a message that this isn't just a huge moment for the company's political reputation, but its business one as well.

The details:

  • Facebook's top security executive Alex Stamos, who used to work for Yahoo, has put his name to the company's ongoing investigation into Russian efforts. It was Stamos who bylined the disclosure of $100,000 worth of ad buys Russian-linked actors used in some cases to promote posts about divisive political issues before and after the election, and co-authored a paper that tackled the issue back in April.
  • Other staffers on the company's Threat Intelligence team have worked in high-up jobs at cybersecurity firms like iDefense, FireEye and Mandiant, Facebook spokesman Andy Stone said in an email. Their academic backgrounds aren't just in technical subjects common at Facebook headquarters: some have degrees in security studies and international relations.
  • It's drawing on a veteran Capitol Hill team as lawmakers ramp up their questions. That includes Greg Maurer, who used to be a top aide to former House Speaker John Boehner; ex-Verizon lobbyist Brian Rice, who focuses on Senate Democrats; and Myriah Jordan, who used to work for Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr.
  • Communications staffers working on the Russia issue include Stone in Washington, as well as former Obama White House official Tom Reynolds and ex-Googler Jay Nancarrow at Menlo Park HQ.

Yes, but: Not everyone thinks the company's efforts are sufficient. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, wants Facebook to provide more information about possible ad buys. And outside critics think it isn't doing enough to grapple more broadly with its influence.

Go deeper: Axios' Mike Allen took a look at the company's messaging plan as the Russia probe gets bigger.

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 p.m. ET: 5,462,447 — Total deaths: 346,293 — Total recoveries — 2,191,461Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3 p.m. ET: 1,653,904 — Total deaths: 97,948 — Total recoveries: 366,736 — Total tested: 14,163,915Map.
  3. World: Italy reports lowest number of new cases since February — Ireland reports no new coronavirus deaths on Monday for the first time since March 21 — WHO suspends trial of hydroxychloroquine over safety concerns.
  4. 2020: Trump threatens to move Republican convention from North Carolina — Joe Biden makes first public appearance in two months.
  5. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks over Memorial Day.
  6. Economy: New York stock exchange to reopen its floor on Tuesday — White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Charities refocus their efforts to fill gaps left by government.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 17 mins ago - Politics & Policy

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The Italian government reported 300 new cases of coronavirus on Monday, the lowest daily increase since Feb. 29.

Why it matters: Italy, the first country in Europe to implement a nationwide lockdown after emerging as a hotspot in March, appears to have finally weathered its coronavirus outbreak. Italy has reported nearly 33,000 total deaths, the third-highest total behind the U.S. and U.K.

Joe Biden makes first public appearance in over two months

Photo: Oliver Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden made his first in-person appearance in over two months on Monday to honor Memorial Day by laying a wreath at a Delaware veterans park, AP reports.

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