New York Times article forces Facebook's comms team to fight back

On Capitol Hill Mark Zuckerberg represented a company that wasn't so naive about politics after all

In their now published report, the New York Times highlighted the cooperation of Facebook with the consulting company Definers of Public Affairs.

I was shocked to learn from the New York Times that you and your colleagues at Facebook hired a Republican opposition research firm to stir up animus toward George Soros. It likewise said Facebook has now and again spread faultfinders as hostile to Semitic or endeavored to connect activists to very rich person speculator George Soros, and attempted to move open indignation away toward adversary tech organizations. While it is disclosing how many violations it is catching, the company said it can't always reliably measure how prevalent these things are on Facebook overall.

The New York Times report claims Facebook hired an opposition research firm to discredit critics by linking them to George Soros. Without naming Soros, a Hungarian-born Holocaust-survivor, the company said its actions weren't aimed at fueling anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. "But as evidence accumulated that Facebook's power could also be exploited to disrupt elections, broadcast viral propaganda and inspire deadly campaigns of hate around the globe, Mr. Zuckerberg and Ms. Sandberg stumbled".

"Facebook's response to our campaign, which challenged them to improve their platform and create safe conditions for Black people and other marginalized groups, was to fan the flames of anti-Semitism", the group said.

According to the report, Facebook "used Definers", an oppo research firm, "to take on bigger opponents, such as Mr. Soros".

This involved Russians looking at the Facebook accounts of people involved in United States presidential election campaigns and, later, Russian-controlled accounts offering reporters information from hacked emails from senior Democratic Party officials.

Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg testifies during a US House Committee on Energy and Commerce hearing about Facebook on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, April 11, 2018.

Facebook wasn't immediately available for comment. After hiring the firm, Facebook also allegedly lobbied for a sex-trafficking act that the firm thought would help the company rebuild trust with lawmakers, the Times report detailed.

- Propagating disinformation about Facebook critics and competitors like Apple and Google ― via a verified Facebook page operated by Definers called "NTK Network"― that was dutifully picked up and disseminated by far-right outlets like Breitbart.

On Tuesday, the numbers of accounts removed for "coordinated inauthentic behavior" was raised to 36 at Facebook and 99 at the social network's Instagram service.

The Times, Facebook said, was "wrong to suggest that we ever asked Definers to pay for or write articles on Facebook´s behalf - or to spread misinformation".

The report argues that the strategy was meant to protect Facebook from having to make any far-reaching changes to its business model, describing Zuckerberg and Sandberg as "bent on growth". But she took issue with the Times report that she sought to downplay foreign involvement, and grew angry when Facebook's chief security officer, Alex Stamos, had directed a team to scrutinize the extent of Russian activity on the platform. "Definers shared a narrow document about an anti-Facebook group's funding".

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