News & Politics

Facebook secretly funded a right-wing firm to attack critics by linking them to George Soros: report

Faced with criticism they enabled the alt-right, Facebook resorted to the tactics of the alt-right to silence critics.

Photo Credit: Anthony Quintano

Facebook has come under heavy fire in recent years for how they allowed the unchecked spread of fake news and alt-right hate speech, and for their breaches of customer data security — and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has apologized for his company's role in all of this and pledged to do better.

According to a report from The New York Times, however, behind the scenes, Facebook went on the offensive to try to divert criticism that they had improperly shared data from 87 million users with right-wing strategy firm Cambridge Analytica. Not only was Facebook unwilling to take responsibility, it reportedly paid an opposition research firm tied to Republicans to go after critics of the company. And in the process, with the blessing of chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, this firm engaged in some disgusting smear tactics:

When Facebook users learned last spring that the company had compromised their privacy in its rush to expand, allowing access to the personal information of tens of millions of people to a political data firm linked to President Trump, Facebook sought to deflect blame and mask the extent of the problem.

And when that failed — as the company’s stock price plummeted and sparked a consumer backlash — Facebook went on the attack.

While Mr. Zuckerberg conducted a public apology tour in the last 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. Facebook employed a Republican opposition-research firm to discredit activist protesters, in part by linking them to the liberal financier George Soros. It also tapped its business relationships, persuading a Jewish civil rights group to cast some criticism of the company as anti-Semitic.

George Soros, a Hungarian-born Jewish billionaire who survived the Holocaust, is a frequent target for far-right, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. Supporters of President Donald Trump have blamed him for orchestrating protests against the administration and financing the Honduran migrant caravan currently heading toward the United States through Mexico. And these falsehoods are dangerous — Soros was the first target of Florida pipe bomber Cesar Sayoc.

Moreover, for Facebook to be leaning on a Jewish civil rights group to be accusing critics of anti-Semitism at the same time they were paying a Republican opposition firm to spread anti-Semitic conspiracy theories is the height of hypocrisy.

It is time for Facebook to recognize the responsibility that comes with the immense power they hold over society, and behave as an ethical corporate citizen.

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Matthew Chapman is a video game designer, science fiction author, and political reporter from Austin, TX. Follow him on Twitter @fawfulfan.