Dems press Justice Department to probe Facebook over political attacks

Dems press Justice Department to probe Facebook over political attacks
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A group of Democratic senators on Thursday urged the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate Facebook following allegations that it attempted to discredit critics who pushed for the company to be regulated.

Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharKlobuchar ate salad with her comb, ordered aide to clean it: report Sanders endorses Oakland teachers strike Dem strategist says Clinton ‘absolutely’ has a role to play in 2020 MORE (D-Minn.) spearheaded a letter signed by fellow Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Chris CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsTrump got in Dem’s face over abortion at private meeting: report Live coverage: Trump delivers State of the Union Actor Chris Evans meets with Democratic senators before State of the Union MORE (Del.) and Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoFemale Dems see double standard in Klobuchar accusations Trump tweets video mocking Dems not cheering during State of the Union New battle lines in war over Trump’s judicial picks MORE (Hawaii) pressing DOJ to probe the company in the wake of a New York Times report detailing how the company retaliated against its detractors amid the fallout from scandals at Facebook since the 2016 election.

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“Reports indicate that the Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are conducting an investigation into Facebook’s failure to prevent and provide notice regarding the compromise of user data and the misuse of the platform by foreign governments,” the senators wrote. “As the Department and other agencies proceed with the investigation, we urge you to consider new information that has come to light regarding Facebook’s behavior and to expand the scope of your inquiry accordingly.”

The group argued that “given the staggering amount of data that Facebook has collected on both its users – even people who have not consented to use of the platform – these allegations raise profound concerns about the company’s willingness to protect the public and our democracy.”

Earlier this year, Facebook hired Definers Public Affairs, a Washington, D.C.-based political consulting group, to help it with opposition research and public relations strategy, according to the Times article.

The social media company has been attempting to temper public backlash in the wake of revelations that Russians used its platform to meddle in the 2016 election, as well as data hacking and data privacy scandals.

To stymie the opposition, Definers painted liberal donor George Soros as the driving force behind some groups critical of Facebook. Those groups included organizations like Color of Change, which has been broadly critical of technology companies.

Since the New York Times story was published on Wednesday, Definers has taken heavy criticism for attributing that public criticism to Soros, an approach similar to the one used by many far right-wing groups looking to discredit their political opponents.

"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."

Facebook said on Thursday that it has cut ties with Definers.