Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg was directly involved in the company’s actions against liberal megadonor George Soros, asking the social media company’s communications staff to research his financial activities, the New York Times reported.
Sandberg asked for the information in an email to a senior executive in January, days after Soros called Facebook and Google a “menace” to society and called for their regulation, according to three people with knowledge of the situation. The email was forwarded to other senior communications and policy staff.
Sandberg reportedly asked staff to look into why the Jewish billionaire was criticizing tech companies and if he had anything to gain financially, according to the Times.
At the time, Sandberg and CEO Mark Zuckerberg were conducting damage control over the company’s ongoing controversies, from compromised user data to its involvement in the 2016 presidential election to the perpetuation of hate campaigns in Myanmar.
Facebook went on to hire a Republican-linked firm, Definers Public Affairs, to tie anti-Facebook protestors to Soros, who has been the subject of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. Color of Change, a group that broke off from a Soros-funded think tank, is a partner of Freedom from Facebook, a coalition calling for the social media company’s breakup.
Facebook said in a statement that the company had been researching Soros before Sandberg requested information.
“Mr. Soros is a prominent investor and we looked into his investments and trading activity related to Facebook,” the statement read. “That research was already underway when Sheryl sent an email asking if Mr. Soros had shorted Facebook’s stock.”
Facebook added that while Sandberg “takes full responsibility for any activity that happened on her watch,” she did not personally direct any research on Freedom from Facebook.