The Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg asked the communications staff of Facebook to research George Soros. She wanted to know what George Soros stood to gain from criticizing Facebook. She asked that his financial interests be researched.
George Soros had attacked Facebook, Google, and other tech companies at the World Economic Forum. Soros called the tech companies a menace to the society and called for them to be regulated. Sheryl Sandberg was at the forum, but she was not present at the speech where Soros attacked the tech companies.
In an email that was sent to a senior executive in January and forwarded to other senior policy and communications staff, Sandberg asked for the information, which was within a few days of the speech by Soros.
Sandberg requested that the Facebook staff examine George Soros’s speech and ask whether he stood to gain financially from the attacks. Facebook was growing under intense scrutiny for how it was used to spread Russian propaganda in the wake of the 2016 American election, and it had also been used to spread hatred campaigns in Myanmar and other countries.
Facebook later hired Definers Public Affairs, a Republican-linked firm that gathered information and circulated information about how Mr. Soros had been funding groups that were critical to the company.
These efforts resulted in a PR problem for Sandberg and Facebook, which was also around the time that Facebook was accused of anti-Semitic attacks against George Soros. Facebook fired Definers Public Affairs.
Facebook released a statement that said that they were already researching George Soros when Sheryl Sandberg made her request. The company said that they were researching George Soros because he is an investor and they only checked his trading activity and investments related to Facebook.
They claimed that they were conducting the research already when Sandberg sent an email asking if George Soros had shorted Facebook’s stock. The company explained that Sandberg takes responsibility for anything that happens under her, but she did not direct any research on an anti-Facebook coalition called Freedom from Facebook whose members were subjects of investigation by Definers Public Affairs.
Eddie Vale who is a spokesman for Freedom from Facebook said that he did not believe the company’s account. Mr. Vale said that Sandberg was continually changing her report of the George Soros investigation and Facebook was personally launching attacks against critics.
Sandberg initially denied that she knew about Facebook hiring Definers before she acknowledged that some papers on the work by Definers had crossed her desk. A deputy called Elliott J. Schrage who oversaw the Facebook communications team took responsibility for hiring Definers. Schrage is now leaving Facebook.
Pressures are already mounting on Sheryl Sandberg who is a well-known feminist and Silicon Valley star. Prior investigations found that Sandberg and Zuckerberg ignored warnings about abuse on Facebook and tried to hide from the public evidence that Russia had taken steps to disrupt the 2016 Presidential Campaign in a bid to help Donald Trump get elected.