Civil rights group accuses Facebook of anti-Semitic smear campaign

Civil rights group accuses Facebook of anti-Semitic smear campaign
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A civil rights group that a PR firm working for Facebook reportedly tried to tie to the billionaire financier George Soros accused the social media company on Thursday of trafficking in racist and anti-Semitic “extremist far-right conspiracy theories.”

Rashad Robinson, the president of Color of Change, blasted Facebook following a New York Times report that detailed how a group hired by Facebook had urged reporters to look into any financial ties between the civil rights group and Soros.

“Facebook's response to our campaign, which challenged them to improve their platform and create safe conditions for Black people and other marginalized groups, was to fan the flames of anti-Semitism,” Robinson said in a statement.

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“By suggesting to reporters that Color Of Change is acting as the puppet of Mr. Soros merely because he is one of our many funders, they have given oxygen to the worst anti-Semitic conspiracy theories of the white nationalist Trump base.”

Facebook is pushing back on the Times report, which detailed the internal strife at the company as well as its closed-door efforts to salvage its image in Washington. Those efforts included hiring a firm called Definers Public Affairs to push back on the criticism it had generated from its handling of the Cambridge Analytica scandal and Russian disinformation campaigns on its platform.

A company spokesman would not directly respond to Color of Change’s statement but pointed to a statement Facebook issued early Thursday. The social network announced that it was cutting ties with Definers, but denied that it had urged the firm to engage in any unsavory practices.

“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,” Facebook said in the statement. “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."