Facebook’s alleged behavior echoed right-wing conspiracy theories that depict the U.S. philanthropist in anti-Semitic terms.
“I was shocked to learn from the New York Times that you and your colleagues at Facebook hired a Republican opposition research firm to stir up animus towards George Soros,” wrote Patrick Gaspard, in an open letter to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. Gaspard is president of the Open Society Foundations, an international charity founded and supported by Soros.
The New York Times reported Wednesday that Sandberg had sought damage control for Facebook’s recent woes – including its involvement in the 2016 presidential election and broadcasting of propaganda – by attempting to discredit Facebook’s protesters by linking them to Soros.
Soros has become the face of the anti-Facebook movement, being seen as funder of groups that were engaged in the Freedom from Facebook movement.
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Gaspard warned in his letter to Sandberg that “there is a concerted right-wing effort the world over to demonize Mr. Soros and his foundation, which I lead – an effort which has contributed to death threats and the delivery of a pipe bomb to Mr. Soros’ home.”
Gaspard also told Sandberg, who is Jewish: “You are no doubt also aware that much of this hateful and blatantly false and anti-Semitic information is being spread via Facebook.”
Gaspard added that “the notion that your company, at your direction, actively engaged in the same behavior to try to discredit people exercising their First Amendment rights to protest Facebook’s role in disseminating vile propaganda is frankly astonishing to me.”
After accusing Facebook of failing to monitor the spread of “fake news” and other disinformation on its platform, Gaspard added that the company’s smears against Soros “appear to have been part of a deliberate strategy to distract from the very real accountability problems your company continues to grapple with.
“This is reprehensible, and an offense to the core values Open Society seeks to advance,” he wrote. “But at bottom, this is not about George Soros or the foundations. Your methods threaten the very values underpinning our democracy.”
Tom Perriello, a former Democratic member of Congress from Virginia and currently the executive director of Open Society, also criticized the social network. “Outrageous for Facebook still to be actively enabling such hate and fake news,” he tweeted on Thursday.
In a subsequent tweet, Perriello quoted an article that accused the company of spreading both anti-Semitism and racist content against black people.