Facebook has once again come under criticism for yet another scandal. This time the company released a statement confirming recent revelations that it had hired a DC-area public relations company to go after several of its critics and competitors. The head of communications for Facebook, Elliot Schrage, has taken the blame and has said that he is leaving the company. At issue is the fact that the focus of these negative PR attacks was George Soros, who has become something of a boogeyman for right-wing political groups and individuals who target him with anti-Semitic language and images.
Overall, Soros’ name has become a stand-in for anti-Semitism—something that Facebook knows well, as many hate groups on their platform often target Soros as well. Facebook’s strategy to target Soros in this way has shown a willingness to engage in malicious and negative attacks, all because Soros spoke out about the company in not-so positive terms.
The recently-released statement, however, failed to actually address and apologize for the problem. They claim they only wanted to find out if Soros had any financial motives for his criticism, and they refer to other critics in a derogatory way, calling them “so-called grassroots” groups. The statement also left out any path forward for the company about how they will change the way the respond in the future.
Many critics have pointed out Facebook doesn’t seem to be actually addressing the problems that cause their PR nightmares in the first place. So far, Facebook has only taken limited actions to address the hate speech and misinformation that runs rampant on their platform. They also are making very little progress when it comes to dark money in political advertising.
This latest crisis was again of their own making. It says quite a lot about their priorities and goals that instead of fixing their many problems, they would invest in smearing their critics in such a vindictive way. When The New York Times article was originally published, detailing the use of this PR firm, Facebook initially denied the report. It was only on the evening before Thanksgiving that Facebook finally admitted the truth, probably hoping that everyone would be too busy to notice.
Facebook has so far refused to change much to improve their company and the experience of their users. If the company doesn’t want to be regulated, then they must change the way they respond to their problems.