Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg asked her subordinates to research whether George Soros was shorting the company’s stock when he laid into Facebook’s “monopolistic” tendencies earlier this year.
The new revelation, initially reported by the New York Times then confirmed by the company to others, undermines Sandberg’s attempts to distance herself from Facebook’s hiring of a conservative research outfit to find discrediting information on the liberal philanthropist.
Facebook policy chief Elliot Schrage, who is on his way out anyway, took the fall for the hiring of Definers. Sandberg said in a memo that she had nothing to do with the hiring, though “some of their work was incorporated into materials presented to me and I received a small number of emails where Definers was referenced.”
Facebook cut ties with Definers after news broke that it had taken on the operation. The troubled social media giant had tasked Definers to convince journalists that there was some link between Soros and the Freedom from Facebook activist group that has been agitating against the company.
“Mr. Soros is a prominent investor and we looked into his investments and trading activity related to Facebook. That research was already underway when Sheryl sent an email asking if Mr. Soros had shorted Facebook’s stock,” Facebook said in a statement quoted by CNBC. “Sheryl never directed research on Freedom from Facebook. But as she said before she takes full responsibility for any activity that happened on her watch.”
Soros is well-known for funding progressive causes around the world, but attacking him has become associated with anti-Semitism, as far-right groups often target him as a member of a supposed Jewish cabal that seeks to influence world affairs. In her defense, Sanberg — who is herself Jewish — said earlier this month that “it was never anyone’s intention to play into an anti-Semitic narrative against Mr. Soros or anyone else… The idea that our work has been interpreted as anti-Semitic is abhorrent to me — and deeply personal.”