Facebook officials admitted asking an opposition-research company to investigate billionaire George Soros and other rivals over their criticism of the social network.
Elliot Schrage, Facebook’s head of communication and policy, published a blog post detailing the company’s decision to hire Definers Public Affairs, a Republican opposition research firm.
It outlined why it aimed its effort at the company’s critics, including Soros.
Facebook’s head of communication Elliot Schrage (left) admitted hiring a PR firm billionaire philanthropist George Soros (right) to orchestrate a smear campaign against him
Schrage published a blog post detailing the company’s decision to hire Definers Public Affairs, and why it aimed its effort at the company’s critics
He wrote: ‘In January 2018, investor and philanthropist George Soros attacked Facebook in a speech at Davos, calling us a menace to society.
‘We had not heard such criticism from him before and wanted to determine if he had any financial motivation. Definers researched this using public information.
‘Later, when the Freedom from Facebook campaign emerged as a so-called grassroots coalition, the team asked Definers to help understand the groups behind them’.
Last week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg denied having any knowledge of the company’s PR campaign against Soros until it was made public by a New York Times Investigation.
Sheryl Sandberg, the company’s chief operating officer, also denied having knowledge of the hiring of Definers.
However, in a statement supplementing Schrage’s blog post, she said she recently learned that the PR company’s work had ‘crossed my desk’.
Schrage defended its attacks on Soros as a response to the liberal financier calling the company a ‘menace to society’ during a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos last January.
Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg said he has no intention of stepping down despite the company being embroiled in several controversies recently
‘We had not heard such criticism from him before and wanted to determine if he had any financial motivation,’ Schrage said Wednesday.
‘Some of this work is being characterized as opposition research,’ Schrage wrote.
‘But I believe it would be irresponsible and unprofessional for us not to understand the backgrounds and potential conflicts of interest of our critics’.
A New York Times investigation, published Wednesday, delves into the social media giant’s handling of the controversy and chaos following the discovery of targeted disinformation campaigns.
Definers later distributed a document suggesting Soros, a major donor to liberal causes, bankrolled the anti-Facebook campaign, playing into anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about Soros.
Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg have denied knowledge of the Definers efforts and she has employed Nick Clegg as the company’s new head of communications
Facebook has since cut ties with Definers. In the memo, Schrage said the blame lies with him and Facebook’s communications team.
‘Over the past decade, I built a management system that relies on the teams to escalate issues if they are uncomfortable about any project, the value it will provide or the risks that it creates
‘I knew and approved of the decision to hire Definers and similar firms. I’m sorry I let you all down. I regret my own failure here’.
Schrage said Facebook did not ask Definers to create or distribute fake news.
Schrage announced in June he would be stepping down, in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, but has stayed on during the search for a replacement.
Schrage (left) also partly blamed company culture as the company has been criticized for a series of scandals in the past two years
In early 2018, it emerged that Cambridge Analytica had harvested the personal data of millions of people’s Facebook profiles without their consent and used it for political purposes.
It has been described as a watershed moment in the public understanding of personal data and precipitated a massive fall in Facebook’s stock price and calls for tighter regulation of tech companies’ use of data.
But Schrage also partly blamed company culture, having been criticized for a series of scandals in the past two years.
‘I’m deeply disappointed that so much internal discussion and finger pointing has become public. This is a serious threat to our culture and ability to work together in difficult times.
‘Our culture has long been to move fast and take risks. Many times we have moved too quickly, and we always learn and keep trying to do our best,’ he said.
In an interview with CNN on Tuesday, Zuckerberg said he had no intention of stepping down as chairman of Facebook.
While some Facebook shareholders and analysts have called for Zuckerberg to step down as chairman, he said Tuesday ‘That’s not the plan’.
He told CNN on Tuesday that he hopes to work with Sandberg “for decades” to come.