Facebook cuts ties from firm that linked its critics to George Soros

Facebook cuts ties from firm that linked its critics to George Soros

Facebook has cut ties to a political consulting group, Definers Public Affairs, that it hired to discredit its critics and opponents in the wake of scrutiny its received over the past year.

The company’s decision follows a New York Times story detailing the work Facebook paid Definers to do, including linking the company’s critics to liberal donor and hedge fund billionaire George Soros.

Facebook has now terminated its relationship with Definers. According to the company, CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergHillicon Valley: Facebook won't remove doctored Pelosi video | Trump denies knowledge of fake Pelosi videos | Controversy over new Assange charges | House Democrats seek bipartisan group on net neutrality On The Money: Conservative blocks disaster relief bill | Trade high on agenda as Trump heads to Japan | Boeing reportedly faces SEC probe over 737 Max | Study finds CEO pay rising twice as fast as worker pay Zuckerberg met with Winklevoss twins about Facebook developing cryptocurrency: report MORE and COO Sheryl Sandberg were not aware of the company’s relationship with Definers.

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“It is wrong to suggest that we have ever asked Definers to pay for or write articles on Facebook’s behalf — or to spread misinformation,” a Facebook spokesperson said in an emailed statement on Thursday. "The relationship with Facebook was well known by the media — not least because they have on several occasions sent out invitations to hundreds of journalists about important press calls on our behalf.”

Definers had circulated a document painting Soros as the impetus behind groups critical of Facebook. Definers officials specifically directed people to links between some left-wing groups criticizing Facebook and Open Society, the Soros-founded and -funded philanthropy.

The group defended its work in a statement to The Hill on Thursday.

“We are proud to have partnered with Facebook over the past year on a range of public affairs services. All of our work is based on publicly-available documents and information,” a Definers spokesperson said. “The document referenced in the Times story regarding the anti-Facebook organization's potential funding sources was entirely factual and based on public records, including public statements by one of its organizers about receiving funding from Mr. Soros' foundation.”

Tim Miller, a Definers staffer who started the group’s Silicon Valley branch, fought back against assertions that the firm’s Soros accusations were anti-Semitic.

“Im disgusted by the rise of anti-Semitism including people who have falsely targeted Soros. It’s deeply, deeply personal. I’ve continuously fought the alt-right & others who spread racist lies & hate & will keep doing so,” Miller tweeted.

The intention, according to Facebook, was to argue that critics like Freedom From Facebook were not grass-roots movements.

Crooked Media, an internet publication that runs the podcast "Pod Save America," said on Twitter that it would also cut ties from Miller, who contributes to the site, for the time being.

Groups critical of Facebook began to crop up after a spate of controversies beset the company in the last two years.

The controversies centered on the use of Facebook to spread misinformation, including related to the 2016 U.S. presidential election, but also to violence in Myanmar, where posts on Facebook were seen as contributing to violence toward the Rohingya ethnic group. 

Lawmakers have called Facebook officials to testify about the controversies on Capitol Hill several times over the past year, including high-profile appearances from Zuckerberg and Sandberg.