Sheryl Sandberg ordered Facebook staff to target George Soros, NYT Reports

Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg reportedly asked communications staff to dig up information on George Soros in response to the billionaire liberal donor’s remarks against the social media giant, according to a New York Times report on Thursday.

Citing three people with knowledge of Sandberg’s request, the Times report suggests that the chief operating officer was directly involved in Facebook’s controversial PR campaign against Soros.

Sandberg reportedly made the request in January, days after Soros called Facebook a “menace to society” during a speech at the World Economic Forum.

Facebook is under intense scrutiny after an investigation by the Times revealed that the company hired Definers Public Affairs, a Republican opposition research firm, to discredit anti-Facebook activists by linking them to Soros, a Jewish philanthropist who is often the target of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories spread by the far-right.

Sandberg previously claimed she was not aware that Facebook had hired Definers and had no knowledge of the type of work they were doing, though she did acknowledge that they were researching organizations who opposed the company.

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UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 05: Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, testify during a Senate (Select) Intelligence Committee hearing in Dirksen Building on the influence of foreign operations on social media on September 5, 2018. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 05: Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO, and Jack Dorsey, Twitter CEO, off camera, testify during a Senate (Select) Intelligence Committee hearing in Dirksen Building where they testified on the influence of foreign operations on social media on September 5, 2018. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 05: Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO, and Jack Dorsey, off camera, Twitter CEO, arrive for a Senate (Select) Intelligence Committee hearing in Dirksen Building where they testified on the influence of foreign operations on social media on September 5, 2018. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook Inc., from left, Dan Rose, vice president of partnerships and platform marketing at Facebook Inc. and Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook Inc., walk the grounds after the morning session at the Allen & Co. Media and Technology Conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, U.S., on Thursday, July 12, 2018. The 35th annual Allen & Co. conference gathers many of America's wealthiest and most powerful people in media, technology, and sports. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook Inc., from left, Dan Rose, vice president of partnerships and platform marketing at Facebook Inc. and Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook Inc., walk the grounds after the morning session at the Allen & Co. Media and Technology Conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, U.S., on Thursday, July 12, 2018. The 35th annual Allen & Co. conference gathers many of America's wealthiest and most powerful people in media, technology, and sports. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images
BOSTON, MA - JUNE 08: Sheryl Sandberg addresses the U.S. Conference of Mayors on June 8, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Paul Marotta/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - JUNE 8: Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, speaks on a panel during the 2018 United States Conference of Mayors at the Marriott Copley Place in Boston on June 8, 2018. (Photo by Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - JUNE 08: Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg takes the stage during a session on how communities can use technology to grow and thrive at the U.S. Conference Of Mayors on June 8, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Scott Eisen/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - JUNE 08: Sheryl Sandberg Addresses U.S. Conference Of Mayors on June 8, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Paul Marotta/Getty Images)
CAMBRIDGE, MA - JUNE 08: Sheryl Sandberg delivers the commencement address at at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Commencement Exercises on June 8, 2018 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (Photo by Paul Marotta/Getty Images)
CAMBRIDGE, MA - JUNE 08: MIT President Leo Rafael Reif and Sheryl Sandberg on stage at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Commencement Exercises on June 8, 2018 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (Photo by Paul Marotta/Getty Images)
SAN JOSE, CA - MAY 01: Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg speaks during the F8 Facebook Developers conference on May 1, 2018 in San Jose, California. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg delivered the opening keynote to the FB Developer conference that runs through May 2. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 06: Chief Operating Officer, Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, Founder and Executive Producer, MAKERS, Dyllan McGee and Co-Founder & President, Lean In Rachel Thomas attend The 2018 MAKERS Conference at NeueHouse Hollywood on February 6, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rachel Murray/Getty Images for MAKERS)
French President Emmanuel Macron (R) meets with Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg during the 'Choose France' summit at the Chateau de Versailles, near Paris, on January 22, 2018. President Emmanuel Macron's campaign for a 'French Renaissance' kicked into overdrive on January 22 as his government welcomed 140 multinational business leaders before this week's jamboree of the rich and powerful in Davos. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / Thibault Camus (Photo credit should read THIBAULT CAMUS/AFP/Getty Images)
Chief Operating Officer of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg (L) arrive to attend a meeting with the French President during the 'Choose France' summit at the Chateau de Versailles, near Paris, on January 22, 2018. President Emmanuel Macron's campaign for a 'French Renaissance' kicked into overdrive on January 22 as his government welcomed 140 multinational business leaders before this week's jamboree of the rich and powerful in Davos. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / Thibault Camus (Photo credit should read THIBAULT CAMUS/AFP/Getty Images)
Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook Inc., speaks during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO Summit in Danang, Vietnam, on Friday, Nov. 10, 2017. Donald Trump, Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin are among 21 leaders meeting in Vietnam this week for the APEC summit. Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) talks with the president of the German Automobile Industry Association (VdA) Matthias Wissmann (2ndR) and the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg (R) before giving a speech to inaugurate the Frankfurt Motor Show IAA in Frankfurt am Main, western Germany, on September 14, 2017. Chancellor Angela Merkel will formally open the Frankfurt car show on Thursday, where she will face a delicate balancing act between defending millions of duped diesel owners without alienating Germany's most powerful industry. / AFP PHOTO / dpa / Frank Rumpenhorst / Germany OUT (Photo credit should read FRANK RUMPENHORST/AFP/Getty Images)
FRANKFURT AM MAIN, GERMANY - SEPTEMBER 14: Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg speaks at the opening event at the 2017 IAA Frankfurt Auto Show on September 14, 2017 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. The Frankfurt Auto Show is taking place during a turbulent period for the auto industry. Leading companies have been rocked by the self-inflicted diesel emissions scandal. At the same time the industry is on the verge of a new era as automakers commit themselves more and more to a future that will one day be dominated by electric cars. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook Inc., walks the grounds after the morning session during the Allen & Co. conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, U.S., on Thursday, July 13, 2017. The 34th annual Allen & Co. conference gathers many of America's wealthiest and most powerful people in media, technology, and sports. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images
MIAMI, FL - JUNE 28: Mindy Cassel, Sheryl Sandberg and Claude Grubair attend Sheryl Sandberg new book 'Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy' Presented in collaboration with Miami Book Fair and Books and Books at Miami Dade College Wolfson-Chapman Conference Center on June 28, 2017 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Johnny Louis/FilmMagic)
MIAMI, FL - JUNE 28: Sheryl Sandberg in conversation with Ana Veciana-Suarez about her new book 'Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy' presented in collaboration with Miami Book Fair and Books and Books at Miami Dade College Wolfson-Chapman Conference Center on June 28, 2017 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Johnny Louis/FilmMagic)
CANNES, FRANCE - JUNE 22: Chief Operating Officer of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg attends the Cannes Lions Festival 2017 on June 22, 2017 in Cannes, France. (Photo by Antoine Antoniol/Getty Images for Cannes Lions)
NEW YORK - APRIL 24: The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and guest Allison Janney, Sheryl Sandberg, Marty Stuart during Monday's 4/24/20 show. (Photo by Scott Kowalchyk/CBS via Getty Images)
GOOD MORNING AMERICA - Sheryl Sandberg is a guest on 'Good Morning America,' Monday, April 24, 2017 airing on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Lorenzo Bevilaqua/ABC via Getty Images) ROBIN ROBERTS, SHERYL SANDBERG
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 23: Chief Operating Officer of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg visits 92nd Street Y on April 23, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Noam Galai/WireImage)
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Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), left, and Sheryl Sandberg, billionaire and chief operating officer of Facebook Inc., react during a panel session during the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017. World leaders, influential executives, bankers and policy makers attend the 47th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos from Jan. 17 - 20. Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg via Getty Images
PARIS, FRANCE - JANUARY 17: Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg delivers a speech in order to announce that Facebook will hold a plan to support start-ups at the future startup incubator Station F, a project of which Xavier Niel (not pictured) is the founder on January 17, 2017 in Paris, France. (Photo by Vincent Isore/IP3/Getty Images)
Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook Inc., gestures as she speaks during a news conference inside Station F, a mega-campus for startups located inside a former freight railway depot, in Paris, France, on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. Facebook Inc. will open a startup incubator at Paris's soon-to-debut entrepreneur campus created by billionaire Xavier Niel, as Sandberg vows to keep investing in France. Photographer: Christophe Morin/Bloomberg via Getty Images
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 14: (L to R) Jeff Bezos, chief executive officer of Amazon, Larry Page, chief executive officer of Alphabet Inc. (parent company of Google), Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, Vice President-elect Mike Pence listen as President-elect Donald Trump speaks during a meeting of technology executives at Trump Tower, December 14, 2016 in New York City. This is the first major meeting between President-elect Trump and technology industry leaders. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 14: (L to R) Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, speaks as Vice President-elect Mike Pence and President-elect Donald Trump listen during a meeting of technology executives at Trump Tower, December 14, 2016 in New York City. This is the first major meeting between President-elect Trump and technology industry leaders. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
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“I did not know we hired them or about the work they were doing, but I should have,” Sandberg said of Definers. “I have great respect for George Soros ― and the anti-Semitic conspiracy theories against him are abhorrent.”

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has also denied any knowledge of the PR campaign until after the Times investigation was published.

On Nov. 21, Facebook’s head of communications, Elliot Schrage, took the blame for hiring Definers and directing them to research Soros.

“Mark and Sheryl relied on me to manage this without controversy,” Schrage wrote in a statement, noting that he approved the decision to hire Definers “and similar firms.”

“I’m sorry I let you all down,” he added. “I regret my own failure here.”

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.
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