Tech

Facing scrutiny, Facebook reportedly hired a PR firm that wrote negative articles about rivals Apple, Google

Key Points
  • Facebook expanded its work with Definers Public Affairs, a Washington public relations firm, in October 2017 after enduring a years-worth of external criticism over its handling of Russian interference on its social network. 
  • Definers Public Affairs wrote dozens of articles criticizing Google and Apple for their business practices while downplaying the impact of Russia's misinformation campaign on Facebook. 
  • Facebook also used the firm to push the idea that liberal financier George Soros was behind a growing anti-Facebook movement. 
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee on September 5, 2018. 
Jim Watson | AFP | Getty Images

Facebook expanded its relationship with a Washington-based public relations firm last year that wrote dozens of articles critical of rivals Google and Apple and pushed the idea that liberal financier George Soros was behind a growing anti-Facebook movement, according to a scathing Wednesday report by the New York Times.

Facebook expanded its relationship with Definers Public Affairs in October 2017 after enduring a year's worth of external criticism over its handling of Russian interference on its social network, according to the report.

The firm reportedly wrote articles that blasted Google and Apple while downplaying the impact of Russian interference on Facebook. Those articles were published on NTK Network, an affiliate of the firm whose content is often followed by politically conservative outlets, including Breitbart, the report says.

Definers Public Affairs also reportedly pressed reporters to explore Soros' financial connections with groups that protested Facebook at Congressional hearings in July.

Facebook's relationship with Definers Public Affairs were outlined as part of a broader report that looked at the company's handling of numerous scandals over the past three years, including Russian interference and the Cambridge Analytica scandal in March. Other revelations in the report include Sheryl Sandberg's apparent fury when former security chief Alex Stamos told the board of directors in fall 2017 about the full extent of Russian interference on the platform, and Mark Zuckerberg ordering managers to use Android phones after Apple CEO Tim Cook criticized the company's approach to privacy earlier this year.

In a blog post published early Thursday morning, Facebook said it ended its relationship with Definers Wednesday night. The company also denied that it asked Definers to write articles. Facebook said in the blog post that Definers to asked journalists to look into the organization Freedom from Facebook, which Facebook says is funded by "a well-known critic" of the company. The company said the suggestion that Definers' work "was an anti-Semitic attack is reprehensible and untrue."

Read the full New York Times report here.

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