Facebook drops firm that sought to discredit critics

Minnie Murray
November 16, 2018

Facebook denies that it asked Definers to spread misinformation on its behalf.

"The intention was to demonstrate that it was not simply a spontaneous grassroots campaign, as it claimed, but supported by a well-known critic of our company", it said, without naming Soros. At the same time, Facebook said it had ended its contract with Definers on Wednesday night - just as the New York Times story went to press.

Facebook confirmed Mark Zuckerberg's beef with Apple CEO Tim Cook in an official company statement.

Facebook said it's making progress on detecting hate speech, graphic violence and other violations of its rules, even before users see and report them.

But it added that to suggest "that this was an anti-Semitic attack is reprehensible and untrue".

Speaking with reporters on Thursday during a media briefing, Zuckerberg explained his surprise with the report's allegations that the Definers public relations firm, working on behalf of Facebook, performed a number of controversial services meant to deflect attention away from Facebook during a time of tremendous turmoil for the once Silicon Valley darling.

The president of George Soros' foundation blasted Facebook FB executives over allegations that the company had funded a Republican-opposition research firm to discredit Soros in part by leveraging anti-Semitic sentiment toward the billionaire liberal donor.

On Russia, Zuckerberg declared in the fall of 2016 that it was "crazy" to think Facebook had been used to help Donald Trump win the USA presidency, but the report said in-house experts knew this not to be the case.

Facebook announced Thursday it is creating an independent body to make potentially precedent-setting calls on what content should be yanked from the social network.

However, Definers says it never sought to smear Soros. "As a board we did indeed push them to move faster", the board statement said.

In July of this year, as a Facebook executive testified before a congressional committee, anti-Facebook demonstrators barged into the room and held up a sign depicting Zuckerberg and Sandberg - who are both Jewish - as the twin heads of an octopus with its tentacles around the world.

Gaspard concluded his letter by asking Sandberg for a sit-down to hear what steps the company plans to take to "remediate the damage done by this deeply misguided - and risky effort carried out at Facebook's behest".

A separate advisor to Soros is reportedly calling for Facebook to investigate the company's PR and lobbying work. "It's a civil liberty", Mr Cook had said in an interview in the midst of the Cambridge Analytica data scandal that showed the social media network was compromised and leveraged to influence the 2016 United States presidential race.

Facebook, as part of its response to the Times piece, acknowledged that it has a policy of promoting usage of Android phones over Apple's iPhones.

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