Zuckerberg says he learned of Definers through NYT story

Zuckerberg says he learned of Definers through NYT story
© Greg Nash

Facebook CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergHillicon Valley: New York says goodbye to Amazon's HQ2 | AOC reacts: 'Anything is possible' | FTC pushes for record Facebook fine | Cyber threats to utilities on the rise Schiff calls out Facebook, Google over anti-vaccination information Senators demand answers from Facebook on paying teens for data MORE said Thursday that he was unaware that his company hired a right-leaning political consulting firm to stave off its opponents while voicing his respect for Democratic mega-donor George Soros.

Zuckerberg spoke hours after the tech giant cut ties with Definers Public Affairs, a political consulting firm that The New York Times reported Wednesday had accused Soros of funding a group of Facebook's progressive opponents.

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The Facebook chief said during a conference call with reporters that he learned about Facebook's relationship with the firm through the Times report the previous day.

"I have tremendous respect for George Soros," Zuckerberg said, adding that he would not want his company to be associated with a firm that deploys those tactics.

"This type of firm might be normal in Washington but it’s not the kind of thing that I want Facebook associated with, which is why we’re no longer going to be working with them," Zuckerberg said during the call. 

A Facebook spokesperson said earlier Thursday that Zuckerberg and Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg were not aware of the company's relationship with Definers Public Affairs.

“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 a statement, adding that it was widely known that Definers did work for Facebook. 

The firm once circulated a document painting Soros as the funder behind a group of progressive groups criticizing Facebook. The groups, under the umbrella Freedom From Facebook, were advocating for the breakup of the company. 

While some of the groups involved receive funding from Soros, the campaign as a whole was not bankrolled by him, Axios reported.

Soros has long been a target of GOP critics as well as the subject of anti-Semitic attacks, playing a central role in far-right conspiracy theories that accuse him of manipulating the world economy, the "fake news" media and the Democratic Party as a whole.

A Definers spokesperson said in a statement to The Hill that the firm stands by its work.

“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," the spokesperson said.

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