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Sheryl Sandberg denies Facebook paid anyone to create ‘fake news’

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg denied the social media giant has paid anyone to create “fake news” to deflect blame for its handling of the Russian interference in the 2016 elections by running stories critical of other tech companies.

“We absolutely did not pay anyone to create fake news — that they have assured me was not happening,” Sandberg told “CBS This Morning” on Thursday.

“And again, we’re doing a thorough look into what happened, but they have assured me that we were not paying anyone to either write or promote anything that was false. And that’s very important,” Sandberg added.

Her comments were in response to a blistering report Wednesday in the New York Times that Facebook had hired Definers Public Affairs, a Republican opposition research firm, for the campaign.

The Times also reported that the firm tried to go after critics, including by tying them to liberal billionaire donor George Soros, a frequent target of conservative anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.

Sandberg told CBS the firm was hired by “the communications team” and that she only learned about its work from the Times report.

“Our strategy was to shore up the security on Facebook and make major investments there,” Sandberg told “CBS This Morning” host Norah O’Donnell.

“It was not what I was doing nor was it the company’s strategy to deflect, to deny or to hire PR firms to do things. That’s not the strategy. And I was part of none of that. We’ve taken great steps, we’ve made huge investments,” she said.

“We’ve invested a ton in AI and technology and if you were following us before the election, you saw those efforts pay off. We were able to take down lots of stuff over and over, over and over because we were now focused on this.”

Sandberg also responded on Facebook to the paper’s scathing report, acknowledging that she and founder Mark Zuckerberg were “too slow” to respond to the Russian interference on the site.

“But to suggest that we weren’t interested in knowing the truth, or we wanted to hide what we knew, or that we tried to prevent investigations, is simply untrue,” she wrote.

“The allegations saying I personally stood in the way are also just plain wrong. This was an investigation of a foreign actor trying to interfere in our election. Nothing could be more important to me or to Facebook.”

She said that she and Zuckerberg told Congress in November 2016 that they had detected cyberattacks with ties to Russia and reported them to law enforcement.

“It was not until after the election that we became aware of the widespread misinformation campaigns run by the IRA,” she wrote, referring to the Russia-based Internet Research Agency.

“Once we were, we began investing heavily in more people and better technology to protect our platform,” she wrote, adding that Facebook no longer works with the PR firm Definers.

“I did not know we hired them or about the work they were doing, but I should have. I have great respect for George Soros — and the anti-Semitic conspiracy theories against him are abhorrent,” she said.

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