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Facebook security chief quits amid conflicts with executives

Facebook’s chief information security officer, Alex Stamos, will leave the company according to employees briefed on the matter.
Facebook’s chief information security officer, Alex Stamos, will leave the company according to employees briefed on the matter.(AFP/Getty Images)

NEW YORK — Facebook’s chief information security officer, Alex Stamos, will leave the company after disagreements over how the social network should deal with its role in spreading disinformation, The New York Times reported, citing current and former employees briefed on the matter.

Stamos had been a strong advocate inside the company for investigating and disclosing Russian activity on Facebook, often to the consternation of other top executives, including Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer, according to current and former employees who asked not to be identified.

Facebook also has been under fire since The Guardian and The New York Times last week detailed how Cambridge Analytica, a British firm led by Alexander Nix, used an app to obtain user data on 50 million people without their knowledge in order to subject them to political propaganda.

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Federal Election Commission data show that Cambridge Analytica, which is funded in part by billionaire financier Robert Mercer, a supporter of Donald Trump, earned $5.9 million in 2016 for its services from the campaign to elect Trump president.

Cambridge also earned $5.8 million from Senator Ted Cruz’s failed presidential campaign.

In total, Cambridge Analytica earned more than $16 million from 2014 to 2016 from nearly 20 Republican candidates and political committees.

Facebook suspended the company from using its services Friday, hours before the reports came out.

Facebook’s stock closed down 6.8 percent Monday, its worst single-day fall since 2014. The tumbling stock led a sell-off of tech shares, pushing the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite index down 1.8 percent.

Stamos would be the first high-ranking employee to leave Facebook since controversy erupted over disinformation on its site. His departure is a sign of heightened leadership tensions at the company.

After his day-to-day responsibilities were reassigned to others in December, he said he would leave. He was persuaded to stay through August to oversee the transition because executives thought his departure would look bad, the current and former employees said. He has been overseeing the transfer of his security team to Facebook’s product and infrastructure divisions. His group, which once had 120 people, now has three, the employees said.

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Chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, Sandberg, and other company leaders have struggled to address a growing set of problems, including Russian interference on the platform, the rise of false news, and the disclosure of Cambridge Analytica’s harvesting of data.

Facebook did not immediately have a comment Monday.

EU and US officials continued to demand answers from both Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. Britain’s information commissioner said she will seek a warrant to access Cambridge Analytica’s servers because the British firm had been ‘‘uncooperative’’ in her investigation.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey has opened a civil investigation into Facebook, according to her spokeswoman Emalie Gainey. The inquiry seeks to examine the nature of the data, how the data was used, and what policies, if any, were violated.