A week ago, The New York Times published a largely unsurprising report that revealed that Facebook is a terrible website that has made the world a worse place, both because bad people have been able to manipulate its platform to accomplish evil things with absolutely no effort from Facebook to stop them and because the site itself has enlisted bad people to run smear campaigns against powerful people who don’t bend the knee and worship at Mark Zuckerberg’s altar. Specifically, the New York Times report said that Facebook had hired a consulting firm called Definers to do the tech company equivalent of opposition research in a political campaign, which included feeding negative stories to a right-wing news site about Apple CEO Tim Cook and liberal rich guy George Soros after they publicly questioned whether or not Facebook had too much unchecked power—with some of the material against Soros having a decidedly anti-Semitic angle, if you can believe that.
Facebook’s initial response to the accusations that it straight-up sucks was to feign surprise, as if it was totally unusual for someone to argue that it’s anything but a benevolent god, but now—just as everyone is going on Thanksgiving break and will probably miss the news—Facebook has admitted that it did work with Definers to do gross work for petty reasons. This came out in a statement posted on Facebook from Elliot Schrage, the company’s Head Of Communications And Policy. In it, he says the company hired Definers after the 2016 election as a way to improve its “outreach” to Republicans, and while he doesn’t seem quite sure what Facebook hired Definers to actually do, he doesn’t like the idea of referring to it as “opposition research.”
That’s what it was, though, so how he feels about it doesn’t really matter. Either way, he admits that the company did ask Definers to “do work” on George Soros, and his justification for joining the hordes of right-wing idiots terrified of Soros is some prime bullshit that’s worth reading in full:
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.
Better make sure he had no financial motivation, because god forbid somebody just doesn’t fucking like Facebook or the way it has helped enable oppressors or turned a blind eye to those who manipulated the system in order to get access to user data. Uh oh, do we have a financial motivation for saying that? Or does Facebook just suck real bad? The only way to find out is to tell conservative news sites to write stories about how we are actually the ones who suck!
Schrage goes on to say that Definers did determine that Soros was backing some “so-called grassroots” anti-Facebook group, as if that completely undermines any legitimate complaints that people have about the company. Again, it is possible for someone to think Facebook is a “menace to society” without having to be paid off first, because—get this—Facebook really seems like it is a menace to society.
But hey, everything’s good now, because Schrage sort of admits that hiring Definers was a mistake even though he notes that he wasn’t totally involved in expanding the duties it was performing for Facebook. So it’s not Facebook’s fault that Facebook tried to dig up dirt on its critics, but it’s also not his fault because somebody else directly dealt with Definers. Also, you can still totally trust Facebook because Schrage himself is leaving the company, supposedly because of how poorly he handled garbage fires like this and Cambridge Analytica. That means Facebook gets to try and let itself off the hook for these recent controversies, which is totally fair and good for all of mankind. (Our check hasn’t cleared yet.)