Two weeks ago, the New York Times published a scathing exposé on Facebook’s internal practices that included reporting on the company’s work relationship with a Republican-linked firm called the Definers Public Affairs that used fake news against the company’s critics. According to the Times, Definers was hired by Facebook to do opposition research to “discredit activist protesters, in part by linking them to the liberal financier George Soros.”
Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg at first denied knowledge of the tech giant’s collaboration with Definers, only admitting last week that she’d been aware of some of the their work for Facebook. But on Thursday, the Times published another bombshell report alleging that Sandberg herself ordered Facebook’s communications staff to gather information on Soros’s financial interests.
Three sources with knowledge of the request, who have asked for anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the matter and fear retaliation, told the Times that Sandberg asked for the research in an email in January, which was sent to senior executives in Facebook’s communications and policy divisions. The timing is important: only a few days before, Soros delivered a speech at the World Economic Forum in which he called Facebook and Google a “menace” to society and proclaimed his support for regulations.
In a statement to the Times, Facebook said that the company was already gathering information on Soros by the time Sandberg sent that email: “Mr. Soros is a prominent investor and we looked into his investments and trading activity related to Facebook. That research was already underway when Sheryl sent an email asking if Mr. Soros had shorted Facebook’s stock.” The company also, confusingly, claimed that Sandberg “takes full responsibility for any activity that happened on her watch.”
In an interview with CBS This Morning two days after the first Times story broke Sandberg maintained, “I learned of that in the paper yesterday as well when Mark did. And they’re gone and we’re looking into what happened there. I don’t have full details. But I will say that if there was anything that, you know, inadvertently or advertently played into any anti-Semitic attacks on anyone, that’s a problem.”
Soros, who has donated heavily to liberal political causes over the years has lately been the target of right wing conspiracy theories, some of which are anti-Semitic. In October, a pipe bomb was hand-delivered to Soros’s Westchester home.