Facebook has spent much of the year deflecting criticism related to issues surrounding Russian bots, fake news and privacy. Despite initial denials from Mark Zuckerberg, the company was also accused of attempting to find opposition research on political opponents.
Last night, the company released a statement admitting to hiring a PR group called, The Definers, to investigate George Soros. Soros had recently referred to the company as a “menace to society” during the Davos conference in January.
Facebook’s Elliot Schrage revealed, “George Soros attacked Facebook in a speech at Davos. 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.”
Schrage further claimed, “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.”
Facebook faced immediate criticism not only for denying the initial claims, but also for the timing of the admission. The press release came at 5:21 in the afternoon and the day before Thanksgiving. Many felt this was an attempt to bury the issue.
The use of The Definers was also controversial. The PR group, who has also worked with Mitt Romney and Marco Rubio has been accused of operating a “fake news” shop called the NTK.
A former employee of The Definers told NBC News, “Some clients would actively pay for NTK Network’s positive coverage, which the ex-employee said would then be pushed out through Facebook in the hopes of being picked up by larger conservative media outlets such as Breitbart.”
Facebook eventually fired The Definers and admitted to its investigation of Soros. The was done, however, after a scathing piece from The New York Times.
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Todd Neikirk is a New Jersey based politics and technology writer. His work has been featured in psfk.com, foxsports.com and Pet Lifestyles Magazine. He enjoys sports, politics, technology and spending time at the shore with his family.