Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, reportedly requested research on billionaire George Soros, and wanted to see if the investor was shorting Facebook’s stock, the company said to multiple news organizations on Thursday.
That news comes after it was revealed that Facebook had a relationship with the opposition-research firm, Definers Public Affairs. Definers has had ties to Republican campaigns and it previously released a report that suggested Soros, a popular target for anti-Semitic and right-wing groups, was secretly funding anti-Facebook organizations.
Sandberg, who has been at the crux of recent controversies involving the company, previously suggested she was unaware of Facebook’s relationship with Definers.
“I did not know we hired them or about the work they were doing, but I should have,” she said wrote earlier in November.
Following news of the firm’s relationship with Facebook, the tech giant immediately cut ties with the company.
A Facebook spokesperson said Sandberg did not direct Definers Public Affairs, adding that she did request information about Soros’ “potential motivations,” BuzzFeed News reported. Her request followed Soros’ appearance at the World Economic Forum in January, where he described tech companies like Facebook and Google as a “menace” and “internet monopolies.”
“Mr. Soros is a prominent investor and we looked into his investments and trading activity related to Facebook,” a Facebook spokesperson said to BuzzFeed News. “That research was already underway when Sheryl sent an email asking if Mr. Soros had shorted Facebook’s stock.”
“Sheryl never directed research on Freedom from Facebook,” the spokesperson added, referring to an anti-Facebook campaign. “But as she said before she takes full responsibility for any activity that happened on her watch.”
Following the public backlash, Facebook’s outgoing boss of policy and communications, Elliot Schrage, took the blame.
“Responsibility for these decisions rests with leadership of the Communications team,” Schrage said in a memo. “That’s me. Mark [Zuckerberg] and Sheryl [Sandberg] relied on me to manage this without controversy.”
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