The president of George Soros’ Open Society Foundations called Thursday for congressional “oversight” of Facebook after a report that Facebook used an opposition research firm to investigate Soros.
Facebook’s outgoing head of communications, Elliot Schrage, took responsibility Wednesday for using Definers, a right-wing political research firm, to look into whether Soros funded Facebook’s critics. Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg said last week he and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg “didn’t know” about Facebook’s use of Definers until he read about it in a New York Times report.
Open Society President Patrick Gaspard tweeted on Thursday that Facebook decided to “drop a turkey on Thanksgiving eve” by admitting “Definers was tasked by company leadership to target and smear George Soros because he publicly criticized their out-of-control business model.” Gaspard added: “Sorry, but this needs independent, congressional oversight.”
So @facebook decides to drop a turkey on Thanksgiving eve, with admission that Definers was tasked by company leadership to target and smear George Soros because he publicly criticized their out of control business model. Sorry, but this needs independent, congressional oversight
— Patrick Gaspard (@patrickgaspard) November 21, 2018
Facebook did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment on Gaspard’s call for regulation.
Schrage, in his memo, said Facebook asked Definers to look into Soros after Soros called the company a “menace to society” at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January.
“We had not heard such criticism from him before and wanted to determine if he had any financial motivation,” Schrage said.
He said Soros had helped fund several members of “Freedom From Facebook,” a group critical of the company.
“Later, when the ‘Freedom from Facebook’ campaign emerged as a so-called grassroots coalition, the team asked Definers to help understand the groups behind them,” Schrage continued. “They learned that George Soros was funding several of the coalition members. They prepared documents and distributed these to the press to show that this was not simply a spontaneous grassroots movement.”
Open Society Foundations did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment Thursday on whether it has financed Freedom From Facebook or individual members of the group. Freedom From Facebook also did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.
Gaspard, in an appearance on CNN on Tuesday, said Soros had “nothing to do” with groups protesting Facebook. He added that “under-regulated” social media platforms posed a “threat” to the U.S. and other countries.
Soros has been a longtime target of conservatives and anti-Semites because of his contributions to left-leaning causes. He’s also been attacked in Europe, including his home country of Hungary, where Prime Minister Viktor Orban has spearheaded “Stop Soros” laws to thwart his activism.
In a Facebook post last week, Sandberg said anti-Semitic attacks on Soros are “abhorrent.”