as part of an effort to boost its image this summer, hired
Republican-linked PR firm Definers Public Affairs in an attempt
to blame liberal billionaire George Soros for the rise of
anti-Facebook groups, The New York Times reported on Wednesday.
- At Facebook’s request, Definers Public Affairs reportedly
tried to find financial connections linking Soros to activists
groups critical of Facebook, including Freedom from Facebook.
- In response to the report, Soros’ Open Society Foundations
sent out an open letter to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg that
accused the company of “disseminating vile propaganda” and
“underpinning our democracy.”
- Soros has been vocal in his criticism of Facebook and other
social media companies in the past, accusing them of monopolizing
control of information and access to data.
George Soros’ philanthropy group has called on Facebook and
Sheryl Sandberg to “remediate the damage done” after
a New York Times report revealed
the company’s efforts to link Soros to the rise of anti-Facebook
groups that have cropped up following the company’s many
scandals over the past two years.
The open letter written by Patrick Gaspard, president of
Soros’ Open Society Foundations, accused Facebook of
“underpinning our democracy” with its “deeply misguided and
“Your methods threaten the very values underpinning our
democracy,” Gaspard writes in the letter. “It’s
been disappointing to see how you have failed to monitor hate and
misinformation on Facebook’s platform. To now learn that you are
active in promoting these distortions is beyond the pale.”
The Times reports that Facebook hired the Republican-linked
PR firm, Definers Public Affairs, in an effort to quietly combat
widespread criticism of Facebook in the wake of
its numerous scandals. The PR firm, known for its use of
political public relations strategies, such as conducting
opposition research on subjects, reportedly reached out to
journalists at Facebook’s request to push the narrative that
George Soros may have been behind the rise of anti-Facebook
groups. Facebook reportedly also used the group to push
anti-Google and anti-Apple research to journalists in an effort
to shift the spotlight away from Facebook as scandal after
scandal cast the social media in negative light.
The letter from Soros’ foundation was sent out Wednesday night
after the Times story was published. Gaspard penned the note to
Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, who he asked to
meet with so the social media platform could “remediate the
Soros, a Hungarian-born Jew, Holocaust survivor, and prominent
liberal donor that has been the focus of far-right conspiracy
theories with anti-Semitic overtones, has also been a vocal
critic of Facebook and other social-media platforms in the past.
a speech at the World Economic Forum in January, Soros
accused major internet companies, notably Facebook and Google, of
becoming “ever more powerful monopolies” that were using their
dominance of the market for “nefarious” purposes.
“This has far-reaching adverse consequences on the
functioning of democracy, particularly on the integrity of
elections,” Soros said in his remarks. “They claim they are
merely distributing information. But the fact that they are near-
monopoly distributors makes them public utilities and should
subject them to more stringent regulations.”
Read the full letter that Gaspard sent to Sandberg in response to
the Times piece:
Dear Ms. Sandberg:
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. 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.
The notion that your company, at your direction, actively
engaged in the same behavior to try to discredit people
exercising their First Amendment rights to protest Facebook’s
role in disseminating vile propaganda is frankly astonishing to
It’s been disappointing to see how you have failed to
monitor hate and misinformation on Facebook’s platform. To now
learn that you are active in promoting these distortions is
beyond the pale.
These efforts appear to have been part of a deliberate
strategy to distract from the very real accountability problems
your company continues to grapple with. This is reprehensible,
and an offense to the core values Open Society seeks to advance.
But at bottom, this is not about George Soros or the foundations.
Your methods threaten the very values underpinning our
I would appreciate the opportunity to discuss this matter
with you in person, and to hear what steps you might take to help
remediate the damage done by this deeply misguided—and
dangerous—effort carried out at Facebook’s
Open Society Foundations