Facebook hasn't always been the best at admitting when it's made a mistake — Mark Zuckerberg is still being called out for his comments about the role the company played during the 2017 election. However, COO Sheryl Sandberg's response to the recent ad targeting scandal is spot on, and provides the kind of transparency other tech companies ought to take note of.
Last week, ProPublica revealed that Facebook's targeted advertising allowed groups to direct content towards people who "expressed interest in the topics of 'Jew hater,' 'How to burn jews,' or, 'History of why jews ruin the world.’” Facebook responded by removing these anti-Semitic categories. Today, Sandberg took to her Facebook page to clearly condemn them.
"Seeing those words made me disgusted and disappointed – disgusted by these sentiments and disappointed that our systems allowed this. Hate has no place on Facebook – and as a Jew, as a mother, and as a human being, I know the damage that can come from hate. The fact that hateful terms were even offered as options was totally inappropriate and a fail on our part."
Sandberg goes on to explain why ad targeting exists in the first place (to help businesses connect with the right audiences), and explains why the misuse of the tool was not discovered sooner (because the terms were not used regularly). Still, she reiterates in her post that Facebook's failure to find out was an error on their part, and explains how the company is taking concrete steps to prevent it from happening again.
It's easy for a company to apologize for an incident, but then go on the defensive. That's what makes Sandberg's openness in owning up to Facebook's wrongdoing in this instance refreshing — and it's the kind of response all tech companies should adopt when a PR crisis occurs. The stock party line may seem like the safer (and easier) option, but it's also not the one that's going change public opinion.
You can read Sandberg's full statement below.