It has been about two weeks since the New York Times published an exposé on Facebook's response to bad press and protests against it over the last couple of years. Since then, an outgoing exec took responsibility for hiring a PR firm, Definers, that had contacted members of the press trying to link anti-Facebook activists to the investor George Soros. Tonight, the New York Times reports that COO Sheryl Sandberg had emailed employees asking them to look into Soros, frequently a target of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.
In a statement to the paper Facebook confirmed the investigation and her request, although it claimed that it had begun prior to the email. It said that "Mr. Soros is a prominent investor and we looked into his investments and trading activity related to Facebook. That research was already underway when Sheryl sent an email asking if Mr. Soros had shorted Facebook's stock."
Sandberg's request reportedly occurred in January, after Soros made a speech calling for tighter regulation on internet giants like Facebook and Google. In a Facebook post published November 15th, Sandberg said the company was no longer working with Definers, and "I did not know we hired them or about the work they were doing, but I should have. I have great respect for George Soros – and the anti-Semitic conspiracy theories against him are abhorrent." The reported emails don't conflict with that statement, but it did omit reference to the investigation, and activist groups targeted by the PR firm like Freedom from Facebook and Color of Change are asking more questions about the strategy.