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Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg reportedly requested research on billionaire George Soros after his blistering attack on the social network as a “menace” to society at the World Economic Forum in January, suggesting the embattled exec was directly involved in the company’s controversial PR offensive in the face of the Cambridge Analytica data scandal.
According to a report in The New York Times published Thursday, soon after Soros’ speech in Davos, Sandberg emailed Facebook communications executives requesting that they research whether he was shorting the company’s stock, standing to gain monetarily from attacking the company publicly at the World Economic Forum.
In his speech in Davos, Soros directly criticized Facebook and Google as pernicious influences on the world and he called for them to be regulated. “As Facebook and Google have grown into ever more powerful monopolies, they have become obstacles to innovation, and they have caused a variety of problems of which we are only now beginning to become aware,” he said.
The Times reports that Sandberg was at the World Economic Forum, but did not attend Soros’ speech. In a statement to the Times, Facebook said that the company had already begun researching Soros when Sandberg made her request.
The latest revelations come on the heels of a damaging Times report earlier this month that Facebook had hired a Republican opposition-research firm to “discredit activist protesters, in part by linking them” to “liberal financier” Soros.” The Times reported that the opposition research firm Definers Public Affairs aggressively briefed reporters and news outlets about Soros’ supposed funding of groups critical of Facebook, with some of this information feeding into existing right-wing conspiracy theories and anti-Semitic attacks against the financier.
Sandberg and CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg have lurched from one public relations disaster to another since the revelation in the spring that a data analytics firm, Cambridge Analytica, with ties to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, exploited the private data of more than 50 million Facebook users. The company is also reeling from growing condemnation of its inability to police hate speech on its platform as well as revelations of its part in enabling violence in Myanmar.
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