Facebook has come under scrutiny following a recent New York Times on the tech giant’s work with the consulting firm Definers.
Yesterday TechCrunch reported on an internal memo from their outgoing Head of Communications and Policy Elliot Schrage taking the blame.
The bit about George Soros in particular was the subject of much outrage. As the Times report explained, “Facebook employed a Republican opposition-research firm to discredit activist protesters, in part by linking them to the liberal financier George Soros. It also tapped its business relationships, lobbying a Jewish civil rights group to cast some criticism of the company as anti-Semitic.”
This afternoon––on Thanksgiving eve––Facebook released the internal memo publicly, and in it Schrage says, “Some of this work is being characterized as opposition research, but I believe it would be irresponsible and unprofessional for us not to understand the backgrounds and potential conflicts of interest of our critics. This work can be used internally to inform our messaging and where appropriate it can be shared with reporters.”
He addresses the Soros part in particular:
Did we ask them to do work on George Soros?
Yes. 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. They learned that George Soros was funding several of the coalition members. They prepared documents and distributed these to the press to show that this was not simply a spontaneous grassroots movement.
He acknowledges that “many people” in the company “feel uncomfortable finding out about this work” and laments how “so much internal discussion and finger pointing has become public.”
The memo also features a comment from Sheryl Sandberg saying, in part, “I also want to emphasize that it was never anyone’s intention to play into an anti-Semitic narrative against Mr. Soros or anyone else. Being Jewish is a core part of who I am and our company stands firmly against hate. The idea that our work has been interpreted as anti-Semitic is abhorrent to me — and deeply personal.”
You can read the full statement here.
[image via screengrab]
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