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Mark Zuckerberg Responds To Times Facebook Report: 'I Learned About This Yesterday'

16 November 2018

This type of firm might be normal in Washington, but it's not the sort of thing I want Facebook associated with.

The Times detailed obfuscation by Facebook's top bosses on the Russian Federation front, said the company has at times smeared critics as anti-Semitic or tried to link activists to billionaire investor George Soros, and also tried to shift public anger away toward rival tech companies. Some of the efforts linked the activists to Soros, the report said. Of particular interest to Facebook, the Times alleges, was tying Soros to the efforts of "Freedom from Facebook", a well-known activist group. "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 has now published a response to the New York Times, claiming that the piece contains a "number of inaccuracies".

"The New York Times is wrong to suggest that we ever asked Definers to pay for or write articles on Facebook's behalf - or to spread misinformation", Facebook said, noting that Definers had openly done media communications work for the company.

As well as pushing the Soros-did-it angle to the press, the Times claims that Definers wrote their own articles bashing rival tech companies, including Google and Apple, and publishing them on NTKNetwork.com, a site created to look like a news site.

Definers Public Affairs sent journalists a research document connecting Mr Soros to "a broad anti-Facebook movement", according to the New York Times.

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While Mr. Zuckerberg conducted a public apology tour in the past year, Ms. Sandberg has overseen an aggressive lobbying campaign to combat Facebook's critics, shift public anger toward rival companies and ward off damaging regulation.

In a speech at the World Economic Forum in January, he had attacked Facebook and Google, describing them as a monopolist "menace" with "neither the will nor the inclination to protect society against the consequences of their actions".

Menlo Park social networking giant Facebook has spent nearly every news cycle since the 2016 USA presidential election responding and reacting to political criticism.

As news of Facebook's use of Definers reached Capitol Hill, one senator implied that Facebook's efforts to push back against critics may add to the company's woes.

Prior to this, Facebook and CEO Mark Zuckerberg have largely stayed out of content policy decisions, preferring instead to look to other resources like third-party fact-checkers in order to weed out fake news.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, told reporters she will be sending a letter to Facebook and the Justice Department. I also love how this statement doesn't say "Soros" even when referencing strategy around him.

Mark Zuckerberg Responds To Times Facebook Report: 'I Learned About This Yesterday'