Facebook sources claim its COO Sheryl Sandberg pushed staff to research George Soros’s finances after harsh criticisms of tech companies.
In recent years, billionaire investor and philanthropist George Soros has become the target of many right-wing conspiracies with claims he has secretly funded a number of liberal causes, making him a target for US domestic terrorists.
So it came as a shock earlier this month when it was revealed that a PR firm Facebook hired to deflect negative attention away from the social network promoted the idea that Soros was using his wealth to target Facebook and other tech companies.
While Facebook quickly responded to the revelation by firing the PR firm Definers Public Affairs, new information leaking out of the company has added a whole new twist, making serious allegations against Facebook chief operating officer (COO) Sheryl Sandberg.
According to The New York Times, three people have come forward to allege that Sandberg asked the social network’s communications team to look into George Soros’s finances. This would suggest that rather than not knowing what its hired PR firm was up to, Sandberg, as Facebook’s second in command, had a direct involvement in pushing the Soros narrative.
In an email sent in January to a senior executive and forwarded to communications and policy staff, Sandberg made the request not long after Soros delivered a speech at the World Economic Forum (WEF) strongly criticising the recent actions of major tech companies.
Having also been an attendee of the WEF – but not present at Soros’s talk – Sandberg wanted to find out whether the billionaire stood to gain financially from these claims, according to the sources.
In the months after this, Facebook hired Definers Public Affairs to pitch the idea to journalists that they should investigate the finances of Soros.
‘That research was already underway’
In response to these latest allegations, Facebook said: “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.”
Continuing, Facebook said that while Sandberg “takes full responsibility for any activity that happened on her watch”, she did not personally direct staff to research Freedom from Facebook, one of the groups also targeted by Definers Public Affairs when Facebook was a client.
When news of Soros’s targeting by Facebook’s ex-PR firm broke, Sandberg denied having any knowledge of Definers Public Affairs being linked with the company. However, last week she admitted that she was aware, having seen some of the firm’s work cross her desk.
Aside from cutting ties with Definers Public Affairs, Facebook announced that a deputy overseeing the communications team, Elliot J Schrage, had taken responsibility for the Soros narrative push and hiring the PR firm. He has now left the company.
However, this latest revelation is likely to put further pressure on Sandberg’s role within Facebook.