Published On: Sat, Nov 17th, 2018

Facebook in hot waters again after contentious deal with Definers

 Sheryl Sandberg  Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook

Following New York Times bombshell report, Facebook is once again in hot waters.

It all started with the harsh criticism the social media giant received from data protection authorities, lawmakers and regulators after the Russian interference bombshell.

During the Cambridge Analytica scandal, it came out that the company’s management would disregard warning signs and even go as far as to disguise failures just to maintain the growth and profitability rate. Personal data was exploited, being used as a sophisticated tool to bully adversaries, promote visual propaganda and influence elections outcomes.

When users found out about Facebook’s data breach and its collaboration with a political consultancy firm linked to President Trump, they were outraged and while public outcry grew and trust sunk, Facebook employed an offensive PR strategy promoted through a partnership with Definers Public Affairs.

According to the New York Times report, Facebook management agreed to “delay, deny and deflect”. While Mark Zuckerberg had embarked on an apology tour, Sheryl Sandberg sought damage control by expanding Facebook’s relationship with Definers Public Affairs. The company made of “elite GOP operatives” was specialized “in opposition research”.

and employed Machiavellian tactics which were intended to deflect blame and downplay the magnitude of the problem. Basically, Facebook went on the attack, creating adversaries and inventing unseen enemies (e.g.: the liberal billionaire George Soros).

According to NBC News, Definers Public Affairs published various editorials on NTK Network, which was nothing more than a “in-house fake news shop,” used as a source by conservative news outlets like Breitbart. Their victims were Facebook adversaries and competitors, with Google, Apple and jewish financier George Soros being the favorite targets. This aggressive lobbying campaign was intended to silence critics and silence opponents.

Conspiracy theories about George Soros were pushed into mainstream media by presenting the jewish financier as a benefactor of Anti- Facebook activist groups and progressive organizations that targeted the social media giant. Definers appealed to conservative media outlets to scrutinize George Soros’ connections to Freedom from Facebook and Color of Change.

As expected Facebook announced that it cut ties with Definers Public Affairs and fired back at the New York Times by criticizing the report for its “inaccuracies”.

The social media giant said the allegation that Zuckerberg and Sandberg knew about Russian meddling in
the 2016 Presidential election already from spring 2016 “is not true”. Furthermore, Russia was not named
in the April 2017 white paper because they “felt that the US Director of National Intelligence was best
placed to determine the source”.
Regarding the negative articles distributed by Definers about Apple and CEO Tim Cook, Facebook claimed that their executives didn’t hire Definers for such PR tactics but it “encouraged employees and executives to use Android because it is the most popular operating system in the world”.

With reference to George Soros, Facebook refuted any allegations regarding an “anti- Semitic attack” on the jewish hilanthropist, adding that Zuckerberg has “tremendous respect” for the billionaire.

Additionally, Donald Trump’s comments on the Muslim Ban “while abhorrent” did not break Facebook’s terms of services, thus Facebook rejects again Times assertion that Zuckerberg “was appalled” by the comments and asked his colleagues to analyze if such remarks don’t call for a ban from the social network.

Facebook concluded by reaffirming the company’s commitment to fight fake news and asserted that “is wrong to suggest “ the executives asked Definers “to write articles on Facebook’s behalf”.

Concurrently, Open Society Foundations president Patrick Gaspard wrote an open letter in which it accuses the tech- giant of using a “deliberate strategy to distract from the very real accountability problems” Facebook continues to have. He emphasizes that “there is a concerted right-wing effort the world over to demonize Mr. Soros and his foundation”– an effort which brought “death threats and the delivery of a pipe bomb to Mr. Soros’ home.”

In World Without Mind: The Existential Threat of Big Tech Franklin Foer says that titanic tech corporations “have produced an unstable and narrow culture of misinformation,” by building a world where “we’re constantly watched and always distracted”. Perhaps the time has come for us, the users and consumers of social media, to be more selective with our time, privacy and personal information.

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