The outgoing head of Facebook's communications team yesterday took responsibility for the controversial hiring of a conservative consulting firm accused of using "black ops" style techniques, acknowledging critics including investor George Soros were targeted. The admission? They did it.
Earlier Wednesday, Facebook's outgoing Head of Communications and Policy Elliot Schrage published a blog post detailing the company's decision to hire Definers Public Affairs, a Republican-affiliated firm, to research Soros.
Definers Public Affairs sent documents to the media linking Mr Soros to Freedom from Facebook through Colours of Change, a nonprofit that backs the opposition group and is funded by the billionaire.
"The responsibility for these decisions lies with the leadership of the communications team", said Schrage.
He added, "I'm sorry I let you all down".
It was a stunning mea culpa, in which Schrage said there had been a systematic failure within his own team. The NYT is " wrong to suggest we have ever asked Definers to pay for, or to write articles for the account to Facebook, or spreading false information", defends the social network's news night. "We call on Facebook to stop using methods inspired by those of the enemies of democracy around the world", writes Patrick Gaspard, the president of the foundation. They learned that George Soros was funding several of the coalition members.
Alain Bashung, 10 ans après
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Definers has "encouraged journalists" to lean on the financing of a campaign against Facebook to show that it was not a campaign spontaneous, bottom-up, but "that it was supported by a well-known critic of our company", says Facebook, without mentioning George Soros.
Schrage's admission flies in the face of statements previously made by CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg, who both denied having any knowledge of hiring Definers until the news was made public by a last week.
'Some of this work is being characterized as opposition research, ' Schrage wrote.
"Some of their work was incorporated into materials presented to me and I received a small number of emails where Definers was referenced", Sandberg wrote.
"I believe it would be irresponsible and unprofessional for us not to understand the backgrounds and potential conflicts of interest of our critics", Schrage added.
"I also want to emphasize that it was never anyone's intention to play into an anti-Semitic narrative against Mr. Soros or anyone else", the Facebook COO said. "Being Jewish is a core part of who I am and our company stands firmly against hate.' Facebook is now reviewing its work with Definers and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has 'launched an evaluation" of work with PR firms. Zuckerberg acknowledged missteps but said he would not step down as chairman of Facebook's board, nor would he dismiss Sandberg. "I am really proud of the work we have done together and hope we work together for decades more to come".
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