The Soros machine has hit back at Facebook after the social media giant admitted to using a Republican PR firm to cast liberal critics as operatives for the Hungarian-American activist billionaire, a claim first revealed in a November 14 New York Times exposé.
In response to Facebook's "Thanksgiving eve" admission, the head of Soros' foundation, Patrick Gaspard, tweeted: "So @facebook decides to drop a turkey on Thanksgiving eve, with admission that Definers was tasked by company leadership to target and smear George Soros because he publicly criticized their out of control business model. Sorry, but this needs independent, congressional oversight"
So @facebook decides to drop a turkey on Thanksgiving eve, with admission that Definers was tasked by company leadership to target and smear George Soros because he publicly criticized their out of control business model. Sorry, but this needs independent, congressional oversight— Patrick Gaspard (@patrickgaspard) November 21, 2018
On Wednesday evening, Facebook's outgoing Head of Communications and Policy, Elliot Schrage, fell on his sword and issued the following admission:
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. -Elliot Schrage
COO Sheryl Sandberg added at the end of the "Thanksgiving eve" admission that while it was indeed Facebook's collective decision to go after Soros, "it was never anyone’s intention to play into an anti-Semitic narrative against Mr. Soros or anyone else." It just happened... and it wasn't even Putin's fault this time?
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.
Both Sandberg and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg denied any knowledge of the company's hiring of Definers - despite the company's official statement describing their relationship as "well known in the media."
Gaspard responded to this on CNN Tuesday night, stating "I find it hard to believe that one would go after someone like George Soros...without some clearance at the highest levels."
In his own CNN interview
The day after the NYT story broke, Gaspard and Soros adviser Michael Vachon issued harsh rebuikes; with Vachon writing: "It is alarming that Facebook would engage in these unsavory tactics, apparently in response to George’s public criticism in Davos earlier this year of the company’s handling of hate speech and propaganda on its platform."
The Times’ story raises the question of whether Facebook has used similar methods to go after other critics or public officials who have tried to hold Facebook accountable. Zuckerberg and Sandberg’s claim that they were unaware of what the company was doing is more alarming than reassuring. What else is Facebook up to?
The company should hire an outside expert to do a thorough investigation of its lobbying and PR work and make the results public.
Until then, this episode further demonstrates that Facebook continues to pursue its narrow corporate interests at the expense of the public interest. -Michael Vachon
Gaspard similarly responded, saying in a statement: "I was shocked to learn from the New York Times that you and your colleagues at Facebook hired a Republican opposition research firm to stir up animus toward George Soros," adding: "As you know, there is a concerted right-wing effort the world over to demonize Mr. Soros and his foundations, which I lead—an effort which has contributed to death threats and the delivery of a pipe bomb to Mr. Soros’ home. You are no doubt also aware that much of this hateful and blatantly false and anti-Semitic information is spread via Facebook."
Facebook has spent much of 2018 apologizing for the massive Cambridge Analytica data harvesting scandal, and has come under fire by lawmakers for allowing Russian disinformation to thrive on the platform surrounding the 2016 US election.
When asked recently if he would ever step down as Facebook's chairman, Zuckerberg said "I don’t think that that specific proposal is the right way to go."