Facebook cut references to Russia from a public report in April about manipulation of its platform around the presidential election because of concerns among the company’s lawyers and members of its policy team, according to people familiar with the matter. The drafting of the report sparked internal debate over how much information to disclose about Russian mischief on Facebook and its efforts to affect U.S. public opinion during the 2016 presidential contest, according to these people. Some at Facebook pushed to not include a mention of Russia in the report because the company’s understanding of Russian activity was too speculative, according to one of the people.
Ultimately, the 13-page report, published on April 27 and titled “Information Operations and Facebook,” was shortened by several pages by Facebook’s legal and policy teams from an earlier draft, and didn’t mention Russia at all, the people said.
Rather, it concluded that “malicious actors” engaged in influence campaigns during the U.S. presidential election but said it couldn’t determine who was responsible. The extent of Facebook’s understanding at the time of Russian influence is unclear.
It wasn’t until a Sept. 6 Facebook newsroom blog post that the company publicly identified Russia as a source of such efforts.