×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Facebook’s Crisis PR Firm Pushed Soros Conspiracy to Discredit Critics (Report)

A consulting firm hired by Facebook to deal with the fallout over Russian propaganda on its platform resorted to linking critics of the social media giant to George Soros, the New York Times reported Wednesday as part of a massive expose on Facebook’s crisis response.

The consulting firm in question, D.C.-based Definers, specializes in crisis response and opposition research. It was hired in October of 2017 by Facebook to deal with a growing backlash against the company’s slow response to Russia’s election interference as well as the Cambridge Analytica data scandal.

One of the groups rising to prominence during that time was “Freedom From Facebook,” a coalition of progressive groups including MoveOn and Demand Progress that has been pushing for the government to break up the social media giant. This summer, Definers reportedly circulated a paper linking the group to George Soros, a frequent bogeyman of the far right, who has been the target of numerous anti-semitic conspiracy theories.

One of the outlets approached with this angle was the far-right online magazine The Daily Caller, according to Daily Caller writer Joe Gabriel Simonson. “Can def confirm being contacted,” Simonson wrote on Twitter Wednesday. “The PR guy did keep bringing up Soros. It was odd and we didn’t end up going with that angle.”

Definers also operated its own online magazine, dubbed NTK Network, which was used to attack some of Facebook’s competitors, and play down the link between Russia and the social network, according to the New York Times.

The Times’ story is reportedly based on interviews with dozens of sources, and laid out in detail how the company stalled in its response to the crisis, at times toning down blog posts and omitting mentions of Russia altogether. The company also reportedly threw its support behind a bill meant to fight sex trafficking that had been criticized by many other tech companies as overly broad to score points with conservative politicians.

However, the smear tactics reportedly used by Definers on behalf of Facebook stand out, especially since they seemed to be designed to spread the very kind of misinformation and conspiracy theories that Facebook publicly vowed to fight.

Facebook didn’t immediately respond to questions on whether it would continue to work with Definers Wednesday afternoon. Definers didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Popular on Variety

More Digital

  • Tony Ayres - International Live Action

    Netflix Boards Tony Ayres' Tech Thriller 'Clickbait'

    Top Australian film and TV creator, Tony Ayres, “Harry Potter” producer David Heyman and Christian White have set up “Clickbait,” a new thriller series for Netflix. It probes probing the dangers of social media and the widening gulf between people’s real and virtual selves. The show is to be produced in Melbourne, Australia through NBC [...]

  • MINDHUNTER

    Netflix's Podcast Slate 'Deepens' Space Around Original Content, Programmers Say

    It should come as no surprise that, in its quest to become a full-blown entertainment ecosystem, Netflix has built a roster of podcast programming to complement its scores or original series and films. The programs recruit top talent and hosts to hang out and talk about the streaming giant’s TV and film content. It’s a [...]

  • Netflix-logo-N-icon

    Netflix Is Testing Human-Curated 'Collections'

    Netflix, a company powered by the strategic use of data, relies on artificial intelligence to suggest new content that its streaming customers are likely to be interested in. Now it’s looking to potentially add a human touch: The company has launched a limited-scale test of “Collections,” a new feature that presents groups of movies and [...]

  • wolves in the walls emmy

    Neil Gaiman VR Experience 'Wolves in the Walls' Wins Primetime Emmy

    “Wolves in the Walls,” the virtual reality (VR) experience based on Neil Gaiman’s children’s book by the same name, has been awarded with a Primetime Emmy for outstanding innovation in interactive media. The experience has been produced by San Francisco-based immersive entertainment startup Fable, which puts a big effort on making the viewer a participating [...]

  • The Void San Francisco

    The Void Teams Up With Sony Pictures for New Location-Based VR Experience

    James Murdoch-backed virtual reality (VR) startup The Void has teamed up with Sony Pictures Virtual reality to produce a new location-based VR experience, according to Curtis Hickman, the startup’s chief creative officer. Hickman revealed the partnership in a conversation with Variety this week, during which he also outlined plans to bring more original IP to [...]

  • US President Donald J. Trump speaks

    Apple Stock Down 4.6% After Trump ‘Orders’ Companies to Leave China

    Apple’s share price was down around 4.6% Friday at the close of the market, to $202.64 per share, after President Trump took to Twitter to “order” U.S. companies to leave China. The slide came amid a market-wide sell-off, with the NASDAQ sliding 3%, and the Dow dropping 623 points. Trump’s edict was a response to [...]

  • Former head of CAA China Peter

    Peter Loehr to Spearhead Asia Expansion of Genies Avatar Venture (EXCLUSIVE)

    Peter Loehr, the former head of CAA in China, and seasoned music executive John Possman have been tapped by digital avatar company Genies to lead its expansion into Asia. The company’s proprietary avatar technology allows users to express ideas, thoughts and feelings in a different way from text, audio and video. Within the app and [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content