Facebook on Thursday said that chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg asked staff to look into whether billionaire critic George Soros had a financial interest in tarnishing the social network.

The company was responding to a
New York Times
report citing sources that maintained the second most powerful executive at Facebook was directly involved in the social network’s tactical response to the philanthropist’s criticism of the social network.

“Mr. Soros is a prominent investor and we looked into his investments and trading activity related to Facebook,” a spokeswoman said, queried by AFP.

“That research was already underway when Sheryl sent an email asking if Mr. Soros had shorted Facebook’s stock.”

The outgoing head of Facebook’s communications team last week took responsibility for the controversial hiring of a conservative consulting firm accused of using “black ops” style techniques, acknowledging that critics, including investor Soros, were targeted.

The announcement by Elliot Schrage, who said in June he was stepping down, came after Ms. Sandberg pledged a review of its use of Definers to deflect criticism from the social networking giant. She and Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg maintained they were surprised by an NYT story earlier this month that said the social network was using Definers to link social network critics to liberal financier Soros.

The Hungarian-born U.S. billionaire is a favorite target of nationalists and anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists.

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