FACT CHECK: Did Facebook Warn The 2016 Campaigns That Russia Was Trying To Hack Their Accounts?

David Sivak | Fact Check Editor

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg claimed Tuesday that his company warned campaigns during the 2016 presidential election about Russian actors seeking to hack into the Facebook accounts of key campaign staff.

“We expected them to do a number of more traditional cyber attacks, which we did identify and notify the campaigns that they were trying to hack into them,” he told a Senate committee.

Verdict: False

Members of the Clinton and Trump campaigns deny that Facebook notified them about the attempted hacks. Zuckerberg corrected his testimony the following day, saying he misspoke, and that it was actually the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Republican National Committee (RNC) that were contacted.

Fact Check:

During a Senate hearing on data privacy and protection, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein asked Zuckerberg what actions Facebook is taking to prevent foreign actors from meddling in U.S. elections.

“This is one of my top priorities in 2018 – is to get this right,” Zuckerberg responded. “One of my greatest regrets in running the company is that we were slow in identifying the Russian information operations in 2016.”

He said the company expected cyber attacks, like attempts to hack the Facebook accounts of campaign staff, but not a concerted misinformation campaign over the platform.

Zuckerberg disclosed that hacking attempts were made, which he said prompted Facebook to notify the presidential campaigns.

But Robby Mook, the former campaign manager for the Hillary Clinton campaign, disputed the claim.

“This is not true,” he tweeted Tuesday evening. “We were never notified. I hope Zuckerberg and Facebook correct the record. Now, back to making things work better going forward.”

The next morning, Brad Parscale, the campaign manager for the Trump campaign in 2020 and former digital media director during the 2016 election, agreed with Mook.

“Funny to say this, I completely agree with @RobbyMook on this one,” tweeted Parscale. “I wasn’t told about this. @facebook needs to get their stories straight.”

Facebook referred The Daily Caller News Foundation to a tweet by the company’s chief information security officer, Alex Stamos, who clarified that the DNC, RNC and FBI were the organizations contacted.

“We contacted the DNC and RNC during this time to protect the accounts of key employees and to work together to spot potential additional malicious activity,” Stamos tweeted. “We also were in contact with the FBI.”

The DNC and RNC are separate and distinct entities from the presidential campaigns.

Zuckerberg corrected his remark at a second hearing on data protection Wednesday. “When I was referring to the campaigns yesterday I meant the DNC and RNC. So I may have misspoken and maybe technically that’s called the committees, but those were the folks I was referring to,” he said.

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David Sivak

Fact Check Editor
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