Groups Targeted by Facebook Smear Campaign Fire Back at Company

(Bloomberg) -- Two Facebook critics are re-doubling attacks after revelations they were the targets of a smear campaign by a consulting firm working for the social-media company.

On Tuesday, Color of Change, a racial justice group, called for greater regulation of Facebook and the firing of a top lobbyist Joel Kaplan. The other group, Freedom From Facebook, encouraged company employees to leak information.

Definers Public Affairs, a Republican-allied firm working for Facebook, pushed reporters to examine financial ties between Color of Change and Freedom From Facebook and billionaire George Soros, the New York Times reported recently. Soros is a Facebook critic and liberal political donor who is often the target of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. Facebook and Definers ended their relationship after the report.

"They were trying to undermine us with anti-Semitic and anti-Black tropes," Color of Change Executive Director Rashad Robinson told reporters on Tuesday. He said Soros was a donor, but not the group’s biggest. Other donors include Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz, Robinson noted.

Color of Change said Kaplan, Facebook’s vice president of public policy, should be ousted "for his role in this scheme to de-legitimize Color Of Change and our partners."

Facebook Inc. spokesman Andy Stone said that Kaplan didn’t hire Definers "and wasn’t involved in managing or directing its activities.” The social-media company was "absolutely too slow to identify a range of issues over the past two years, but once we did we took strong action to address them and prevent future abuse," Stone added.

Kaplan angered some employees for attending the Senate confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, a friend of Kaplan’s. The policy executive is said to have told employees he should have notified company management before attending.

Freedom From Facebook said Tuesday it is using the company’s social-media service to show ads to Facebook employees, directing them to a whistle-blower website. Employee morale has fallen at Facebook after a year of scandals.

A Definers spokesman said last week that firm’s work on "the anti-Facebook organization’s potential funding sources was entirely factual and based on public records, including public statements by one of its organizers about receiving funding from Mr. Soros’ foundation."

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.