Facebook continues to grapple with the fallout from a New York Times report outlining the company’s strategy to fight criticism, particularly its work with Definers Public Affairs, an opposition research firm with ties to the Republican Party.
That work included a document that the Definitors sent to reporters suggesting ties between George Soros and progressive political groups criticizing Facebook. The Times story outlined the broad strokes of the claims made by the Definitors, but the document itself has not been shared with the public, until today, when it was published by BuzzFeed.
At this point, the content is not particularly revealing, but the document is still worth reading as it is at the center of the recent controversy.
It’s titled “Potential Facebook Freedom Funds” and it begins:
Recently, several progressive groups came together to form the Freedom From Facebook campaign, which has a six-figure advertising budget. It’s unclear who is providing the large amount of funding for the campaign, but at least four of the coalition groups are funded or aligned with George Soros, who has publicly criticized Facebook. It is quite possible that Soros is funding Freedom From Facebook.
The document goes on to note the connections between Soros and several of the groups involved in Freedom From Facebook, and takes note of Soros’ public criticisms of Facebook and Google. On its own, the document appears “largely innocuous” (as BuzzFeed put it), but it has become controversial for potentially messing with anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about Soros.
A spokesperson for Freedom from Facebook has said that no money from Soros was used to fund the campaign; in fact, Axios reported that its initial funding came from David Magerman, a Pennsylvania-based philanthropist and former hedge fund executive.
According to BuzzFeed, this is one of at least two documents the Definitors prepared after Soros made critical comments about Facebook and Google at Davos.
Meanwhile, CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg denied knowing about Definers’ work for Facebook, and outgoing public policy chief Elliot Schrage took responsibility for hiring the firm. But Facebook later acknowledged that Sandberg had asked the communications team to investigate Soros’s financial ties after he criticized the company, and my colleague Taylor Hatmaker’s report suggests that Sandberg was more aware of the work of the Definitors of what was initially recognized.
When contacted for comment, a Facebook spokesperson pointed us to Schrage’s post and said the company has nothing more to add.