Operator Spotlight

Meet Meta’s VP of Global Product Content Operations: Anne Kornblut

Caroline Caswell

“How did they do that? How did they get there?” Companies succeed because of the people who build them - operating leaders who grow businesses to new heights and make decisions every day that can impact entire industries. Each month, our Operator Spotlight gives you the inside track from one of our incredible Operator LPs (Limited Partners) who are changing the game – building and scaling some of the world’s most successful companies. Read on for lessons learned and mistakes made, perspectives from the top, practical advice, and ideas on what’s next. 

Anne Kornblut is a senior technology executive and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. Currently VP of Product Content Operations at Meta, Anne built and scaled the team that defines and helps implement quality content experiences across surfaces on Facebook, Instagram, and Threads, giving her unique insights into the future of product development and audience growth. She founded the team in 2019, evolving it in 2022 to become a scaled Product Operations team that helps train the company’s Machine Learning systems. She works closely with product leaders to scale high-quality content across short-form video, trends, and creator surfaces through ranking, and to launch scalable content approaches that ensure both creators and the products themselves reach their goals. She oversees hundreds of product content specialists across 14+ global markets, continuing her track record of building complex, matrixed teams and retaining talent. Hired at Facebook in 2015 directly by then-COO Sheryl Sandberg, Anne has played multiple roles as a senior leader across the company, including advising on some of the most sensitive global policy, regulatory and communications issues. With decades of experience in high profile, public discussions, she brings expertise and credibility to critical issues -- along with an expansive network from across politics and journalism following her years at the Washington Post and the New York Times. Anne has served on the boards of several global non-profit organizations, including the International Center for Journalism. She’s the proud mom of two tweens and lives in Palo Alto.

There are few topics hotter at the moment than content moderation and the role of AI across social media - give us a summary of what’s happening right now and what you’re particularly focused on at Meta.

Anne: Thank you so much for inviting me to participate here. Content moderation is, indeed, a big area and an important one in social media. We’re fortunate at Meta to have a large effort dedicated specifically to taking down the very worst content that violates our community standards, which is what people typically mean when they refer to “content moderation.”

The team I support, Product Content Operations, works closely with those integrity-focused teams, but we do something a little different. Our role is to set the standards for what we want users to see – and to build out systems to both understand what’s happening in the ecosystem and try to improve it. Our team is full of content specialists who know how to translate a subjective idea, such as showing people more “timely” content, into concrete, actionable steps that our technology can understand. We’re working on improving our recommendations systems, so that they’re more relevant and smarter, because as good as our algorithms are, we’re constantly evolving. So we work very closely with engineers. We operate within exhaustive and rigorous policy-approved guidelines, and bring a data-driven, unbiased approach to each project.

What is AI good at when it comes to both moderating and generating quality content? What is it not good at? 

Anne: It’s hard to make sweeping statements, because so much depends on the specifics of each situation. In my experience, Generative AI is like a good intern – it can generate first takes on things, and take a pass at a piece of work – but still needs an adult supervisor to check its work and make fixes. And of course for many years, we – and other companies – have relied on AI to detect and match patterns in various situations. But we’re constantly improving the systems, and I’d say the use cases will continue to evolve for a long time.

You have been at the center of highly sensitive issues throughout your career, what are a few lessons you’ve learned about how to communicate clearly in a crisis? 

Anne: First let me just acknowledge how hard crisis communications can be. Each situation has its own unique complexities so I don’t want to suggest I have any unique insights or blanket answers. But there are a few basics I think most people agree on. For starters, communicate early, often, and accurately. Don’t lie. That is number one, and it’s an unbreakable rule. You can decline to answer, you can change the subject, but don’t lie. Once trust is broken it’s difficult to regain. When I was a reporter, I kept a mental note of every person who demonstrably lied to me over the years. 

Also, don’t rush out with incorrect facts, but move extremely fast. Reporters – and I suffered from this too – often have outsize impressions of what a big corporation is capable of. The pace of current internet news is relentless, and a narrative can form before you’ve even grasped what’s being talked about. Reporters also think a big, profitable company should be able to pull together information immediately and share it, and the longer you delay, the more they’ll assume something nefarious is underway. It’s hard to get professional skeptics to believe that you need time to figure it out. That’s also what makes rule #1 so important. To the extent whatever problem you’re handling is the result of human error vs. malice, you need to have built mutual trust. 

What is some advice you would offer early-stage founders as they engage in the world of AI and content?

Anne: With the caveat that I’ve never worked at an early stage company, I’d say: bring in real content experts before you release any products. Just as engineers have unique expertise, so too do content specialists. People who “get content” can come from many walks of life – from journalism to social media to copyediting to film production and more – but the ability to understand how people and content interact is hard to capture without some training. 

And then, to state the obvious, think about the policy implications of what you’re doing early. Don’t wait for the bad thing to happen. Get ahead of it and bake it into the product. It’s harder to go back and fix later. 

What AI tools do you use, either professionally or personally (or both!)? What makes that tool particularly valuable to you?

Anne: Assuming you mean Generative AI, I am really enjoying the Meta AI agent that we’ve launched. It’s incredibly fun to see it grow and improve, like watching the technology being made. When it comes to AI overall, we’ve been using AI at Meta for many years – I can’t even imagine how my team would do its job without some form of AI doing pattern recognition. 

What’s a piece of advice you would give to yourself 10 years ago, if you had the opportunity?

Anne: Ask the “dumb” question. Don’t sit there anxiously, feeling like an impostor, wondering why something doesn’t make sense. Everyone else is wondering the same thing – and only by asking the obvious question can you make good decisions.

Also: don’t “save up” your vacations. Take them. You can’t be strategic if you’re spinning in a sea of burnout. And if you think you don’t need breaks – you’re wrong. You don’t have some special exemption. Everyone needs time off.

What’s your secret super power?

Anne: Boiling down complex ideas into something simple people can understand. Everything can be understood – even technical efforts. Often when people don’t explain something well, it’s because they don’t really understand it. I guess that’s not particularly secret.

If it’s supposed to be a secret superpower, I think it has to be that I am a great napper. I can take naps almost anywhere. This was a skill I developed as a political campaign reporter many years ago, with lots of long bus rides and early morning flights. Now it’s just a useful way to power through tough times, whether it’s grueling work issues or overseas flights.

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