Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg requested research on Soros: report

Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg asked the company's communications staff to research Democratic mega-donor George Soros in January, The New York Times reported on Thursday

Sandberg in an email requested Facebook's policy and communications executives probe Soros' financial interests after the billionaire called tech giants a "menace" to society during a World Economic Forum speech.

The revelation about Sandberg's request comes a week after Facebook admitted that it hired consulting firm Definers to investigate Soros’s criticisms of the tech behemoth. 

Sandberg and Facebook CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergCongress needs to address consumer data privacy in a responsible and modern manner China and Big Tech pose threats to our democracy, but we have the power to regulate one Hillicon Valley: Apple woes raise stakes for trade deal | Zuckerberg wants public debate on tech in 2019 | Suspect arrested in German data leak | Watchdog wants investigation into Lieberman's work for Chinese firm ZTE MORE have come under heavy fire following a Times report that found Definers sought to delegitimize group of anti-Facebook activists by linking them to Soros. 

Soros has long been a central figure in right-wing conspiracy theories and anti-Semitic attacks, with extremists claiming that Soros manipulates the media and the world economy. Sandberg originally claimed that she was not aware of any of the work that Definers did for Facebook, but last week back-tracked, saying that some Definers-related papers had come across her desk. 

Sandberg's email requesting information on Soros came before Facebook hired Definers, the Times reported.

Facebook in a statement to Buzzfeed News said that Facebook had already been investigating Soros when Sandberg requested that some communications staff look into his background. 

"As Elliot said last week, we researched potential motivations behind George Soros's criticism of Facebook in January 2018," a Facbeook spokesman told Buzzfeed News. "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," the spokesman added. "But as she said before, she takes full responsibility for any activity that happened on her watch." 

Facebook fired Definers after the bombshell Times report.

Definers continued to insist that it stands by its work as legitimate. Spokespeople for Definers have told outlets that they drew a connection between the anti-Facebook campaign and Soros to emphasize that it was not a grassroots effort.

Soros did not fund the campaign itself but has donated to some of the organizations involved in it. He is one of the top donors to left-of-center causes in the country.

“We’re no longer working with [Definers] but at the time, they were trying to show that some of the activity against us that appeared to be grassroots also had major organizations behind them,” Sandberg wrote in a statement last week. “I have great respect for George Soros – and the anti-Semitic conspiracy theories against him are abhorrent.”