Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has denied knowledge of his company's ties with Definers Public Affairs, a DC-based consulting firm that ostensibly sought to discredit critics of Facebook by tying them to George Soros.
"Look, I learned about this reading in The New York Times yesterday," the 34-year-old billionaire said in a conference call with reporters on Thursday. "As soon as I read about this in The New York Times, I got on the phone with our team and we're no longer working with this firm."
"The bottom line on this is the intention was not to attack an individual, but to demonstrate that a group that was saying that it was — spontaneously came up as a grassroots effort was in fact funded by — just was not a spontaneous grassroots effort. It was well funded."
"I have tremendous respect for George Soros, even though we disagree on the impact and the importance of the internet overall," Mark Zuckerberg claimed, adding that Facebook has terminated ties with the firm.
His comments came hours after the NYT said that Definers had attempted to cast billionaire George Soros as the founder of anti-Facebook groups such as Freedom from Facebook and urged reporters to look into the financial connections between Soros and these groups.
The Soros-funded NGO Open Society Foundations, an international grant-making network promoting democratic political movements and liberal values, had delivered a stinging rebuke to Facebook following the report. The OSF's director, Patrick Gaspard, described the purported smear campaign as "reprehensible" and "threatening the very values underpinning our democracy".
My letter to @facebook regarding the smear campaign they paid for and disseminated against George Soros & @OpenSociety as reported by @nickconfessore in the @nytimes. These tactics out of Putin’s playbook have no place in an important debate about the integrity of our elections pic.twitter.com/jF9RhC5vSy— Patrick Gaspard (@patrickgaspard) 15 ноября 2018 г.
Facebook officials insisted in a corporate blog that the platform had not asked Definers to spread misinformation and that the firm had not pressed reporters to examine the funding of Facebook critics.
However, it seems that Facebook's credibility has been affected in the scandal, with social media users claiming that Zuckerberg's response was 'too little, too late.'
@facebook they cut ties after being found out, because Facebook does not care. I'd bet that this was just a known, but not addressed, reason that firm was hired in the first place.— Dakota Nobriga (@DakotaNobriga) 15 ноября 2018 г.
It's like the criminal throwing away the gun that he used to fire at his target. Surely now he looks less guilty…— CindyDicere (@CindyDicere) 15 ноября 2018 г.
A bit late for that. Time for Zuckerbot2000 and Sandberg to come testify before Congress. And what the hell was Chuck Schumer doing protecting Facebook from the heat?— Michael Kasdan (@michaelkasdan) 15 ноября 2018 г.