Illuminated signage is displayed at the Facebook Inc. Hack Station in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photographer: Patricia Monteiro/Bloomberg)

Facebook's Top Security Executive Exits Amid Fake Accounts Probe

(Bloomberg) -- Facebook Inc.’s top security executive said he’s leaving for an academic post at Stanford University, just one day after the company disclosed a new coordinated effort to sow political division in the U.S. through fake accounts on the social-media site.

Facebook's Top Security Executive Exits Amid Fake Accounts Probe

Starting in September, Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos will teach full-time at Stanford and do research focusing on cybersecurity and technology policy, according to a Facebook post. Stamos initially joined Facebook from Yahoo! Inc. in 2015.

Stamos’s tenure was defined by the crisis over how, and to what extent, the Russian government used Facebook to try to influence U.S. politics during and after the 2016 presidential election. Stamos often battled Facebook’s critics on Twitter, defending his and the company’s actions. That cut a contrast to the diplomatic and tight-lipped approach used by more senior executives such as Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg and Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg.

“I have been proud to work with some of the most skilled and dedicated security professionals in the world in one of the most difficult threat environments faced by any technology company,” Stamos wrote. “It is critical that we as an industry live up to our collective responsibility to consider the impact of what we build.”

The latest disclosure from Facebook came on Tuesday, when the company said it had identified a new batch of accounts that were trying to stir up political discord in the U.S. ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. Facebook hasn’t identified who is behind the new accounts.

The tactics used in this campaign are more sophisticated than the relatively crude methods used by the Russian government-linked Internet Research Agency in 2016, the company said. The new discovery shows how difficult it has been to stop bad actors from exploiting social media in an effort to influence political opinions. Facebook has ramped up security spending and hired an army of new moderators to better police its global site.

Stamos is the latest high-profile executive to say he plans to leave Menlo Park, California-based Facebook this year. The company is also losing its chief counsel, Colin Stretch, and head of policy, Elliot Schrage, both of whom were also involved in helping the company deal with the fallout from Russian political interference.

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