Facebook quietly released a statement at 5pm on Wednesday admitting they did hire Definers, a Republican opposition research firm, to attack George Soros, but they insist there was nothing anti-Semitic about their decision.
Facebook's departing Head of Communications and Policy Elliot Schrage wrote:
Yes. In January 2018, investor and philanthropist George Soros attacked Facebook in a speech at Davos, calling us a “menace to society.” We had not heard such criticism from him before and wanted to determine if he had any financial motivation. Definers researched this using public information.
Later, when the “Freedom from Facebook” campaign emerged as a so-called grassroots coalition, the team asked Definers to help understand the groups behind them. They learned that George Soros was funding several of the coalition members. They prepared documents and distributed these to the press to show that this was not simply a spontaneous grassroots movement.
So that we have the context here, I've found the video of Mr. Soros (who has not ever paid me for anything, by the way) and put it up at the top of this post. In his Davos speech, he was calling for the regulation of Facebook and Google, making his case that they were (and are) doing grave harm to society by virtue of their "monopolistic behavior."
Noting that these two giant tech companies exploit the social environment, Soros went on to explain his thinking.
“This is particularly nefarious because social media companies influence how people think and behave without them even being aware of it. This has far-reaching adverse consequences on the functioning of democracy, particularly on the integrity of elections," he said.
"Social media companies deceive their users by manipulating their attention and directing it towards their own commercial purposes. They deliberately engineer addiction to the services they provide. This can be very harmful, particularly for adolescents. There is a similarity between internet platforms and gambling companies. Casinos have developed techniques to hook gamblers to the point where they gamble away all their money, even money they don’t have," he continued.
"Something very harmful and maybe irreversible is happening to human attention in our digital age. Not just distraction or addiction; social media companies are inducing people to give up their autonomy. The power to shape people’s attention is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few companies. It takes a real effort to assert and defend what John Stuart Mill called “the freedom of mind.” There is a possibility that once lost, people who grow up in the digital age will have difficulty in regaining it. This may have far-reaching political consequences."
Read the entire transcript here.
Returning to Facebook's weak justification for singling out and overtly campaigning against (and I argue, smearing) George Soros in an age where Soros is the lightning rod for fascist anti-Semites everywhere, it seems to me to be quite the overreaction to hire an opposition research firm to go after Soros and any campaigns which may have sprung from his warnings at Davos.
Not only did they admit to hiring the firm, they admitted that it was revenge for his call to regulate the tech industry without even admitting they weren't the sole target of his speech, or acknowledging the TRUTH of what he was saying. And why would they? The truth would be bad for the bottom line and they just cannot have that, can they?
Shame on Facebook. Shame. This tactic was far more dangerous than just a blip in their stock prices or even actual regulation. By attacking George Soros, they fed the fever dreams of people like Cesar Sayoc, who felt perfectly free to send a pipe bomb to Mr. Soros and other Democrats in October. When George Soros called them a "menace to society" he nailed it right on the head.
Facebook, this lame excuse doesn't fly.