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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call.

Speaking to reporters Thursday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he didn't know about Facebook's relationship with a Washington-based opposition research firm that The New York Times reported Facebook was working with and that those DC-based opposition research tactics are "not the kind of thing we want to be involved with here."

Why it matters: The event was intended to unveil new content policies and procedures, but Zuckerberg spent much of the call addressing questions about the Times story and Facebook's relationship with Definers Public Affairs, the research firm. It's a defensive position that Zuckerberg and his company have been stuck in since last year.

The details: Zuckerberg made it clear that this scandal wouldn't displace him as the head of the company and that Facebook is aiming to address these problems.

  1. Zuckerberg said he wouldn't step down as Facebook board chairman. "I don’t particularly think that that specific proposal is the right way to go."
  2. He wouldn't confirm if anyone would get fired based on the Times report. He said he won't talk about performance and management publicly, but that the company is evaluating roles as part of an ongoing process and it "will certainly keep doing that."
  3. He defended Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, who was painted as the person responsible for many of these problems in the New York Times piece, saying Sheryl "was also not involved" with the Definers relationship, and that "she learned about it at the same time I did."
  4. He said he respects George Soros. Zuck acknowledged that he knew that "Freedom from Facebook," an advocacy group that has ties to the anti-monopoly Open Markets Institute, was behind an anti-Facebook campaign. He said Facebook's intention in working with a Washington opposition research firm was not to target Soros, whose foundation has given to the Open Markets Institute but not the Facebook campaign, but to show that the group was not a grassroots movement.
  5. He denied Facebook instructed the outside research firm to spread misinformation. Asked if the opposition research firm’s actions were comparable to the kind of "coordinated inauthentic behavior" that Facebook is trying to eradicate, Zuckerberg said, “that isn’t true... We certainly never asked them to spread anything that's not true and we don't have any detail now that would suggest that they have.”
  6. Facebook is building a new appeals process. In a separate blog post, Zuckerberg wrote (and verbally addressed on the call) that Facebook is planning to create a new way for people to appeal content decisions to an independent body, whose decisions would be transparent and binding, next year.
  7. Facebook denied reading any people's messages. When asked if the company monitored any journalists' accounts, Zuckerberg said, "absolutely not."
  8. He defended his leadership of the company: “When you’re building something at this scale, solutions take a good amount of time. I don’t think me or anyone else can come in and have these issues resolved in a quarter or half year." As he has before, he compared the challenges Facebook is facing today with its "existential" effort nearly a decade ago to catch up to the transition to mobile content consumption.

Between the lines: Zuckerberg reiterated that these problems (hate speech, election meddling, divisive behavior) are systemic within society, and thus "they are not issues you ever fix." He said the company is learning to be more transparent in how it's managing them.

"The biggest lesson from this year that we've learned is that when you connect more than 2 billion people, you're going to see all the good and bad of humanity."
— Zuckerberg

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - Health

California surpasses 50,000 COVID-19 deaths

A man prepares a funeral arrangement in in Los Angeles, California, Feb. 12. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

California's death toll from COVID-19 surpassed 50,000 on Wednesday, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: It's the first state to record more than 50,000 deaths from the coronavirus.

4 hours ago - Technology

Facebook bans Myanmar military

A protester holds a placard with a three-finger salute in front of a military tank parked aside the street in front of the Central Bank building during a demonstration in Yangon, Myanmar. Photo by Aung Kyaw Htet/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Facebook said on Wednesday it would ban the rest of the Myanmar military from its platform.

The big picture: It comes some three weeks after the military overthrew the civilian government in a coup and detained leader Aung San Suu Kyi, causing massive protests to erupt throughout the country. Military leaders have been using internet blackouts to try to maintain power in light of the coup.

It's harder to fill the Cabinet

Data: Chamberlain, 2020, "United States of America Cabinet Appointments Dataset" Chart: Will Chase/Axios

It's harder now for presidents to win Senate confirmation for their Cabinet picks, an Axios data analysis of votes for and against nominees found.

Why it matters: It's not just Neera Tanden. The trend is a product of growing polarization, rougher political discourse and slimming Senate majorities, experts say. It means some of the nation's most vital federal agencies go without a leader and the legislative authority that comes with one.