- Facebook this summer had a public relations firm attempt to blame financier George Soros for the rise of groups opposing it, reports the New York Times.
- The firm, Definers Public Affairs, sent a research document to reporters that accused Soros of backing the anti-Facebook groups behind the scenes.
- Definers also encouraged reporters to dig into the alleged financial ties between Soros and the groups.
- Soros, a longtime backer of liberal causes, has long been the target of right-wing and antisemitic conspiracy theories.
As Facebook faced a string of crises, it sought to tie its critics to George Soros, the billionaire at the center of many fringe right-wing conspiracy theories.
This summer, with anti-Facebook sentiment growing in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal and other fiascos, the social media company had a public relations firm it had hired attempt to pin the blame on Soros for the growing Freedom from Facebook movement, The New York Times reported on Wednesday. At Facebook’s behest, Definers Public Affairs distributed to reporters a research report that accused Soros of quietly backing anti-Facebook groups and urged them to dig into the alleged financial connections between those groups and the businessman, The Times reported.
Definers, a Republican-linked firm, specialises in opposition research and in bringing tactics most commonly associated with political campaigns – such as negative ads – to efforts on behalf of business clients. Its anti-Soros effort was part of a broader endeavour to shore up Facebook’s image and tear down the company’s critics, according to The Times report.
Soros, an 88-year-old Hungarian-born Jew who survived the Holocaust, has long funded liberal and pro-Democracy causes. He’s also long been a bête noire of conservatives and has frequently been a central figure in far-right conspiracy theories, many of them with anti-semitic overtones.
Most recently, a crackpot theory accused him of funding the caravan of refugees that has been slowly heading from Central America to the US’s southern border. He was also among the prominent critics of Donald Trump who were sent pipe bombs, allegedly by Cesar Sayoc. Sayoc was reportedly obsessed with Soros.
Later on Wednesday, Patrick Gaspard, the head of Soros’s philanthrophic Open Society Foundations, issued a statement addressed to Sandberg, as shared on Twitter, calling the alleged practice “reprehensible” and asking for an in-person meeting.
“But at bottom, this is not about George Soros or the foundations. Your methods threaten the very values underpinning our democracy,” said Gaspard’s note to Sandberg, in part.
You can read the full note below:
My letter to @facebook regarding the smear campaign they paid for and disseminated against George Soros & @OpenSociety as reported by @nickconfessore in the @nytimes. These tactics out of Putin’s playbook have no place in an important debate about the integrity of our elections pic.twitter.com/jF9RhC5vSy
— Patrick Gaspard (@patrickgaspard) November 15, 2018
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