Sheryl Sandberg said to have asked FB staff to research George Soros

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Facebook's Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg was directly involved in efforts to research liberal philanthropic billionaire George Soros, The New York Times reported.

Sandberg asked for the information in an email to a senior executive in January, days after Soros called Facebook and Google a "menace" to society and called for their regulation, according to three people with knowledge of the situation. Thursday's statement draws a more direct link between the executive and Facebook's response to Soros. In the post, he acknowledges that Facebook asked the firm, Definers, "to do work" on Soros. Zuckerberg and Sandberg denied any knowledge of Facebook's work with the company, and Facebook's outgoing Head of Communications, Elliot Schrage, last week took the fall for hiring the company.

Those efforts, revealed this month in a New York Times investigation, set off a public relations debacle for Sandberg and for Facebook, which was accused of trafficking in anti-Semitic attacks against the billionaire. The spokesperson maintained that Sandberg had not directed the PR firm to investigate Soros' ties with activist groups, but added that "she takes full responsibility for any activity that happened on her watch". Definers also helped respond to what Schrage described as unfair claims about the company.

Sandberg has come under fire for Facebook's handling of a rising tide of criticism, much of it related to the spread of disinformation across the social network.

Others defended Sandberg, saying she was correct to look into powerful interests opposing Facebook and noting that Soros - who notoriously made a fortune by betting against the British pound in 1992 - is known as a highly sophisticated investor.

We researched potential motivations behind George Soros's criticism of Facebook in January 2018. The Times also found that when Facebook was confronted last spring with revelations that the privacy of tens of millions of users had been compromised by Cambridge Analytica, a Trump-linked data firm, Sandberg and Zuckerberg sought to downplay the problem and deflect blame. The report alleged that Facebook hired a PR firm called Definers Public Affairs which published articles critical of Facebook's competitors through an associated conservative news website.

Civil rights group Color of Change on Friday said Facebook has agreed to release an update on the status of its civil rights audit and early findings by the end of the year.

Roger Kay, an analyst and consultant at Endpoint Technologies Associates who follows the tech sector, said the moves by Facebook and Sandberg showed "extraordinarily poor judgment" from a corporate governance view.