Facebook’s board has chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg’s back.
In a letter, the Silicon Valley tech giant’s board supported Sandberg’s controversial request to investigate George Soros and whether the billionaire investor philanthropist had shorted the company’s stock after calling the social network a “menace to society.”
“To be clear, Sandberg’s question was entirely appropriate given her role as COO,” it said in a letter on Wednesday. “When a well-known and outspoken investor attacks your company publicly, it is fair and appropriate to do this level of diligence.”
You can read the full letter on CNET here.
The letter was sent by Facebook’s general counsel Colin Stretch to Patrick Gaspard, president of Soros’s Open Society Foundations. It comes as Sandberg weathers unprecedented scrutiny and criticism over her support of the Soros attacks, and her broader role in deflecting criticism and crises amid Facebook’s mounting scandals — as detailed in a bombshell investigation from The New York Times.
The letter said Sandberg was being truthful when she said she did not know that the social network hired that public-relations firm, Definers, to explore Soros’s criticisms of the company. Facebook has been criticized for playing into anti-Semitic tropes, after a public relation firm hired by the company attempted to smear critics by linking them to liberal billionaire George Soros.
We’ve reached out to Facebook for comment and will update when we hear back.
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December 5, 2018
Patrick Gaspard President Open Society Foundations 224 West 57th Street New York, NY 10019
Dear Mr. Gaspard:
Thank you for your December 4, 2018, letter to Facebook, Inc.’s Board of Directors. The board has asked me to respond on its behalf.
We take issue with several points you raise.
As you know, in January of this year, George Soros gave a highly publicized speech to business and political leaders in which he called our company a “menace to society.” As is to be expected following an attack from such a well-known and widely respected figure, Facebook staff immediately initiated research to attempt to understand the motivations driving the criticism, financial or otherwise. That research was underway when Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer, sent an email asking if Mr. Soros had shorted Facebook stock. To be clear, Ms. Sandberg’s question was entirely appropriate given her role as COO. When a well-known and outspoken investor attacks your company publicly, it is fair and appropriate to do this level of diligence. When Ms. Sandberg contacted you on November 15, she told you, truthfully, that she had not known about the work done by the Definers public relations firm related to Mr. Soros. Ms. Sandberg has also made clear that she takes full responsibility for any work done on her watch, and she and Mr. Zuckerberg have ordered a full review of the company’s work with communications consultants.
Your letter raises additional concerns that have been the focus of recent public scrutiny. With respect to efforts by Russia and others to use Facebook to spread disinformation, we have repeatedly and publicly taken responsibility for our failure to identify and respond to this threat sooner. Since the 2016 election, we have made massive investments in technology and in people, and we are proud of the progress we have made in protecting election integrity, as well as in limiting the distribution of fake news and sharply curtailing hate speech on the platform. We have also created an independent election commission to examine the relationship between social networks and democracy, and we are undertaking a civil rights audit of our platform. Much additional work remains, but to be clear these are not the actions of a company that has, in your words, “failed to take responsibility.”
Organizations around the world, including the Open Society Foundations and many of the organizations they support, use Facebook and our other free services to draw attention to important issues, to fundraise, and to build support for the causes they believe in – to, in the words of your mission statement, “build vibrant and tolerant societies whose governments are accountable and open to the participation of all people.” We believe our services help give people and organizations such as yours the power to do exactly that.
Colin Stretch General Counsel Facebook, Inc.
Cc: Board of Directors, Facebook, Inc.
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