Facebook (FB) and Washington are making nice.
While the social media giant is creating new sections on its platforms to help people connect during the coronavirus pandemic as well as donating hundreds of millions of dollars to small and medium businesses, the company is also working with various agencies and authorities in Washington D.C. to fight the outbreak. And that may help Facebook’s standing with government officials who have previously been critical of the company.
In an interview with me this week, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg spoke to what sounds like a new level of cooperation between the company and Washington, which had been strained.
“Well, we've had a lot of challenges,” Sandberg said. “So we've had a lot of work to do. And we're working with people.”
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, from Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) to Congressman David Cicilline (D-RI) and Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), along with President Trump, have blasted Facebook in recent years for a number of alleged transgressions including stifling political opinion as well as privacy and national security concerns. Sandberg, along with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other Facebook executives have been called to testify in front of Congress on numerous occasions.
Now, given the pandemic, priorities have shifted.
“If you look at our relationship with the key congressional and senatorial committees, some of the work we've been able to do around coordinated inauthentic behavior is because those committees have come together,” Sandberg said to me.
“Homeland Security has a task force, the FBI,” she said. “These are moments where we all have to work very closely together. I don't think this is a time for partisanship. I don't think this is a time for people to not work together. This is a time for everyone to work together no matter what your beliefs are, to get emergency help to people, to get emergency food to people, and to make sure we can keep America [safe.]”
Whether this detente between Washington and Facebook—along with other tech companies like Google and Amazon, which have also been under fire from Washington—lasts after the coronvirus has gone away is unclear. At the very least though, Facebook isn’t hurting its hand in Washington these days.
Andy Serwer is editor-in-chief of Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter: @serwer.