Nellie Bowles and Zach Wichter, reporting for The New York Times: Joining a long tradition of companies and campaigns that drop bad news on holidays, Facebook on Thanksgiving eve took responsibility for hiring a Washington-based lobbying company, Definers Public Affairs, that pushed negative stories about Facebook’s critics, including the philanthropist George Soros. Facebook’s communications and policy chief, Elliot Schrage, said in a memo posted Wednesday that he was responsible for hiring the group, and had done so to help protect the company’s image and conduct research about high-profile individuals who spoke critically about the social media platform. Mr. Schrage will be leaving the company, a move planned before the memo was released.
Facebook fired Definers last week, after a New York Times investigation published on Nov. 14. “Did we ask them to do work on George Soros?” Mr. Schrage wrote in the memo, a draft of which had circulated online earlier in the week. “Yes.” He added: “I’m sorry I let you all down. I regret my own failure here.” This is a change from just a few days ago, when Facebook wrote on Nov. 15 that the Times report was full of “inaccuracies.” The same day, Sheryl Sandberg, the company’s chief operating officer, posted on her Facebook page that she had no idea the company had hired Definers.
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