Facebook acknowledged Thursday night that chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg asked staff for information on billionaire George Soros financial activity, the latest development in the controversy over the companys efforts to scrutinize and undermine critics.
Sandberg “sent an email asking if Mr. Soros had shorted Facebooks stock” while the company was researching the motivations behind the philanthropists criticisms of Silicon Valley, a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement provided to POLITICO.
Facebook earlier this year hired political communications firm Definers Public Affairs, whose work for the social media giant included probing financial ties between Soros and groups critical of Facebook. The company has seen major blowback over Definers work, which critics say echoed long-standing anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about Jewish financiers shaping world events.
The newest revelation is bound to increase the scrutiny facing Sandberg, a best-selling author and one of Facebooks most well-known executives. Sandberg had initially denied knowing about Facebooks work with Definers, only to disclose last week that she had seen some of the firms work and “received a small number of emails where Definers was referenced.”
The New York Times reported Thursday that Sandberg “asked Facebooks communications staff to research George Soross financial interests in the wake of his high-profile attacks on tech companies,” citing three anonymous sources. The Times was first to report on Definers research on Facebooks behalf in an investigation published earlier this month.
In Thursdays statement, the spokesperson said Sandberg “never directed research on Freedom from Facebook,” one of the main groups Definers sought to undermine.
Sandberg met Thursday with another such group, the racial justice organization Color of Change, group President Rashad Robinson told POLITICO. She offered an apology for the Definers situation and pledged to release a public update by years end on an audit Facebook launched to probe its impact on communities of color, Robinson said.
Sandberg had earlier addressed the Definers controversy in a statement that Facebook released last week on the night before Thanksgiving.
“It was never anyones intention to play into an anti-Semitic narrative against Mr. Soros or anyone else,” Sandberg said at the time. She added, “Being Jewish is a core part of who I am and our company stands firmly against hate.”