TechCrunch has obtained an inner memo revealed by Fb’s outgoing head of public coverage Elliot Schrage wherein he blames himself for hiring PR agency Definers. He admits to having the corporate push destructive narratives about opponents, however says Fb didn’t ask or pay Definers to publish pretend information. COO Sheryl Sandberg left a touch upon the memo, saying it was by no means Fb’s intention to play into anti-Semitic theories about George Soros.

The memo features a Q&A relating to factors raised by a New York Occasions article detailing how Definers labored to unfold destructive publicity about Google and different tech giants to make Fb look higher, and that the agency’s staff additionally revealed biased articles bashing Fb’s opponents and critics via a information web site known as NTK Community that’s affiliated with Definers.

Within the memo, Schrage justifies using opposition analysis, and chastises Fb staff for permitting inner finger-pointing surrounding its troubled previous two years to change into public. He additionally notes that his substitute, Fb’s new head of worldwide coverage and former U.Okay. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg can be reviewing its work with all political consultants, which may flip up extra skeletons.

Fb’s former head of coverage and comms Elliot Schrage (left) assembly former President George W. Bush. [Image publicly shared by Facebook’s Andrew ‘Boz’ Bosworth]

Schrage introduced in June that he’d be stepping down within the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, however would keep on to assist discover a substitute. Many have requested who, if anybody, can be fired for placing Fb in cahoots with Definers. As TechCrunch beforehand reported, Schrage was atop the chain of command right here. Given his in depth expertise in public coverage, he doubtless was properly conscious of the character of Definers’ work. Schrage taking the blame supplies a handy resolution to the problem, as he’s already on his means out.

“Duty for these selections rests with management of the Communications workforce. That’s me. Mark and Sheryl relied on me to handle this with out controversy,” Schrage writes. “I knew and accredited of the choice to rent Definers and comparable corporations. I ought to have identified of the choice to develop their mandate . . . I’m sorry I allow you to all down. I remorse my very own failure right here.” This rationalization serves to guard Zuckerberg and Sandberg from further blame, at the same time as Sandberg strives to indicate she’s not passing the buck by noting “I need to be clear that I oversee our Comms workforce and take full accountability for his or her work and the PR corporations who work with us.”

Schrage’s protection of his bosses supplies further cowl for Zuckerberg’s feedback from a CNN interview that ran tonight wherein he stated he gained’t step down as Fb’s chairman and hopes to proceed working alongside Sandberg for many years to come back. The memo may have been geared toward quieting inner unrest about Fb’s chief lobbyist Joel Kaplan. His ties to the GOP, help for Supreme Court docket Justice Brett Kavanaugh and involvement with Fb’s newest PR troubles had led some staff to query his employment. Now Fb has another person to take the warmth.

Schrage is successfully leaping on the grenade right here.

The memo and remark might be discovered beneath [Update: And it’s since been officially released by Facebook]:

Inner Fb Memo By Elliot Schrage

Lots of you will have raised questions on our relationship with the Definers consulting agency. We’ve been wanting into this and although it’s near a vacation for a lot of of you I needed to share an replace on what we’ve discovered and the place issues stand:

Why did we rent Definers?

We employed Definers in 2017 as a part of our efforts to diversify our DC advisors after the election. Like many corporations, we would have liked to broaden our outreach. We additionally confronted rising strain from opponents in tech, telcos and media corporations that need authorities to manage us.

This strain turned significantly acute in September 2017 after we launched particulars of Russian interference on our service. We employed corporations related to each Republicans and Democrats — Definers was one of many Republican-affiliated corporations.

What did we ask them to do and what did they do?

Whereas we’re persevering with to overview our relationship with Definers, we all know the next: We requested Definers to do what public relations corporations usually do to help an organization — sending us press clippings, conducting analysis, writing messaging paperwork, and reaching out to reporters.

A few of this work is being characterised as opposition analysis, however I consider it will be irresponsible and unprofessional for us to not perceive the backgrounds and potential conflicts of curiosity of our critics. This work can be utilized internally to tell our messaging and the place applicable it may be shared with reporters. This work can be helpful to assist reply to unfair claims the place Fb has been singled out for criticism, and to positively distinguish us from opponents.

Because the strain on Fb constructed all year long, the Communications workforce used Definers an increasing number of. At Sheryl’s request, we’re going via all of the work they did, however now we have discovered that because the engagement expanded, extra individuals labored with them on extra initiatives and the connection was much less centrally managed.

Did we ask them to do work on George Soros?

Sure. In January 2018, investor and philanthropist George Soros attacked Fb in a speech at Davos, calling us a “menace to society.” We had not heard such criticism from him earlier than and needed to find out if he had any monetary motivation. Definers researched this utilizing public info.

Later, when the “Freedom from Fb” marketing campaign emerged as a so-called grassroots coalition, the workforce requested Definers to assist perceive the teams behind them. They discovered that George Soros was funding a number of of the coalition members. They ready paperwork and distributed these to the press to indicate that this was not merely a spontaneous grassroots motion.

Did we ask them to do work on our opponents?

Sure. As I indicated above, Definers helped us reply to unfair claims the place Fb was been [sic] singled out for criticism. In addition they helped positively distinguish us from opponents.

Did we ask them to distribute or create pretend information?


Who knew about this work, and who signed off on it?

Duty for these selections rests with management of the Communications workforce. That’s me. Mark and Sheryl relied on me to handle this with out controversy.

I knew and accredited of the choice to rent Definers and comparable corporations. I ought to have identified of the choice to develop their mandate. Over the previous decade, I constructed a administration system that depends on the groups to escalate points if they’re uncomfortable about any undertaking, the worth it can present or the dangers that it creates. That system failed right here and I’m sorry I allow you to all down. I remorse my very own failure right here.

Why have we stopped working with them?

Mark has requested us to reevaluate how we work with communications consultants. It’s not about Definers. It’s about us, not them.

Mark has made clear that as a result of Fb is a mission pushed firm, he desires to carry us to a better commonplace. He’s uncomfortable counting on any outdoors agency to make selections about the best way to make our case about our mission, insurance policies, opponents and critics till he can change into snug with our administration, oversight and escalation.

The place are we now?

Many individuals throughout the corporate really feel uncomfortable discovering out about this work. Many individuals on the Communications workforce really feel below assault from the press and even from their colleagues. I’m deeply disillusioned that a lot inner dialogue and finger pointing has change into public. It is a critical risk to our tradition and skill to work collectively in tough instances.

Our tradition has lengthy been to maneuver quick and take dangers. Many instances now we have moved too shortly and we all the time be taught and preserve attempting to do our greatest. This can be no exception.

What occurs subsequent?

Our authorized workforce continues to overview our work with Definers to grasp what occurred. Mark and Sheryl have additionally requested Nick Clegg to overview all our work with communications consultants and suggest ideas and administration processes to information the workforce’s work going ahead. All of us need to be certain that we, our advisors and consultants higher mirror Fb’s values and tradition.

Remark On The Memo From Sheryl Sandberg

Thanks for sharing this, Elliot.
I need to be clear that I oversee our Comms workforce and take full accountability for his or her work and the PR corporations who work with us. I actually consider now we have a world class Comms workforce and I need to acknowledge the big strain the workforce has confronted over the previous 12 months.

After I learn the story in New York Occasions final week, I didn’t keep in mind a agency known as Definers. I requested our workforce to look into the work Definers did for us and to double-check whether or not something had crossed my desk. A few of their work was included into supplies offered to me and I acquired a small variety of emails the place Definers was referenced.

I additionally need to emphasize that it was by no means anybody’s intention to play into an anti-Semitic narrative towards Mr. Soros or anybody else. Being Jewish is a core a part of who I’m and our firm stands firmly towards hate. The concept that our work has been interpreted as anti-Semitic is abhorrent to me — and deeply private.

I do know this has been a distraction at a time while you’re all working laborious to shut out the 12 months — and I’m sorry. As I stated on the All Arms, I consider so deeply within the work we do and really feel so grateful to all of you for doing a lot day by day. Thanksgiving looks as if the precise time to say a giant thanks as soon as once more.

Fb has different ties to Definers, the GOP-led opposition analysis group

Learn the mud-slinging pitches Fb’s PR agency despatched us 

Further reporting by Taylor Hatmaker


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