A recent article published by the New York Times titled “Delay, Deny and Deflect: How Facebook’s Leaders Fought Through Crisis,” provides insight into how Facebook has operated through numerous crises over the past few years. The report alleged that Facebook hired a PR firm called Definers Public Affairs which published articles critical of Facebook’s competitors through an associated conservative news website. Facebook also reportedly hired a Republican opposition research firm to discredit activist protesters critical of Facebook’s data breaches. This was done partly by linking them to the left-wing financier George Soros.
Sandberg outright denied knowledge of Definers research of Soro and their plans to discredit protesters by linking them to him, stating: “At the time, they [Definers] were trying to show that some of the activity against us that appeared to be grassroots also had major organizations behind them. I did not know we hired them or about the work they were doing, but I should have. I have great respect for George Soros ― and the anti-Semitic conspiracy theories against him are abhorrent.”
But now, three internal sources claim that Sandberg requested information on Soros’ financial investments. When questioned about this, Facebook stated: “Mr. Soros is a prominent investor and we looked into his investments and trading activity related to Facebook.” The company continued to state: “That research was already underway when Sheryl sent an email asking if Mr. Soros had shorted Facebook’s stock.”
In a statement, Facebook said that Ms. Sandberg “takes full responsibility for any activity that happened on her watch,” but that she did not personally direct any employees to research Freedom from Facebook, an anti-Facebook group who was later targeted by Definers Press. A spokesperson for Freedom from Facebook was not convinced by Sandberg or the company’s statements about the coalition.
“In light of Sandberg’s continuously changing story on the Soros research, there’s no way their denials about attacking other critics can be taken at face value,” Vale told the New York Times. “Facebook must immediately release any emails and any research about targeting the Freedom from Facebook coalition or any member organizations.”
Elliot J. Schrage, a Facebook deputy who oversaw the company’s communications team, took responsibility last week fort he hiring of Definers Press and their subsequent investigation into Soros. “We had not heard such criticism from him before and wanted to determine if he had any financial motivation,” Shrage said discussing Soros. “Definers researched this using public information.”
Rashad Robinson, the head of the racial-justice group Color of Change which was mentioned by Definers in a memo related to George Soros, met with Sandberg and discussed their conversation saying: “She very much placed it on the now departed communications chief [Schrage] and also worked to assure us that Joel Kaplan had nothing to do with it either,” Robinson stated. “We were not satisfied with that answer,” he said.
Read the full report in The New York Times here.