Zuckerberg confirms he recommended Facebook colleagues to Buttigieg

Ed O'Keefe

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in Paris on May 23, 2018.

This article, Zuckerberg confirms he recommended Facebook colleagues to Buttigieg, originally appeared on CBSNews.com

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg confirmed to CBS News on Monday that he and his wife recommended earlier this year that the presidential campaign of Pete Buttigieg hire two of their colleagues.

Zuckerberg confirmed the outreach in response to a question from CBS News during a conference call with reporters about changes Facebook is making to bolster the platform's election security.

"This shouldn't be taken as an endorsement. We have several mutual friends in college who introduced me" several years ago to the future presidential candidate, Zuckerberg said.

"When a number of colleagues who I'd worked with at Facebook or my philanthropic foundation were interested in working there, they asked me or my wife Priscilla to send over their resume. So I did that. I think that this probably should not be misconstrued as if I'm deeply involved in trying to support their campaign or anything like that," Zuckerberg added.

Zuckerberg also had been asked by CBS News whether he made similar overtures to other presidential campaigns, but he did not answer that question.

News of Zuckerberg's outreach to Buttigieg was first reported Monday by Bloomberg News, which reported that Zuckerberg, 35, and Buttigieg, 37, attended Harvard University at the same time and had mutual friends. While at Harvard, Zuckerberg developed the now omnipresent social media platform, originally just for Harvard students. Buttigieg was one of Facebook's first 300 users.

But the tech executive and South Bend, Indiana mayor were not introduced until just a few years ago. Earlier this year, Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, recommended Eric Mayefsky and Nina Wornoff to Buttigieg campaign manager Mike Schmuhl via email around April and May. A campaign spokesperson said the email correspondence between the two parties ended in May.

Mayefsky is a senior digital analytics adviser and Nina Wornhoff is an organizing data manager. Both are based in South Bend.

A campaign spokesperson said the recommendations were unsolicited and that the campaign received 7,000 resumes over the course of a month from Buttigieg's CNN town hall in March to the campaign's April launch.

In Des Moines, a reporter asked Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren about the fact that Zuckerberg had recommended colleagues to be hired by Buttigieg. She declined to criticize Buttigieg and reiterated her call for big tech companies like Facebook to be broken up.

"Look, my views on Mark Zuckerberg are pretty clear," Warren said. "He runs a company that has too much political power. They already have way too much influence in Washington, and they are helping drive every conversation in a way that will protect Mark Zuckerberg and his company, but that undermines our democracy."  

The majority of changes announced by Facebook on Monday have to do with more clearly labeling pages, political ads, fact-checker content labeled "false or partly false" and state-controlled media. Facebook also launched a service called "Facebook Protect" that will be available to elected officials and their staffs who may be vulnerable to hackers. It will ban paid ads that undermine voting and voter confidence. Facebook also announced a $2 million investment in media literacy programs.

Head of cybersecurity Nathaniel Gleicher said Facebook had also removed four networks of accounts/Pages on Facebook and Instagram – three from Iran and one from Russia that targeted the U.S., North Africa and Latin America. Gleicher said the Iranian operations were relatively simple and exhibited links to previous takedowns. 

The Russian operations were more sophisticated – they were in "early stages" and clearly focused on "building an audience," Gleicher said. A separate Facebook blog post says those efforts were linked to the Internet Research Agency, which maintained at least some Instagram accounts designed to look like they were from swing states.

"Elections have changed significantly" since 2016, Zuckerberg said, and Facebook "has changed, too." He touted the company's efforts to "more proactively" confront increasingly sophisticated threats that originate from a growing number of actors, but that coordinated inauthentic behavior had increased around the world.

Zak Hudak contributed to this report.