More About Our Work with Facebook
In a memo to employees released last night, Elliot Schrage, Facebook’s Vice President of Communications and Policy clearly stated that Definers performed the communications and public affairs services that Facebook asked us to provide. That’s how we run our business – the client comes first, always.
Some key points that Mr. Schrage’s memo clarifies:
First, Facebook details Definers’ actual scope of work for the company, which has been missing in most of the reporting to date. As Mr. Schrage states, “We asked Definers to do what public relations firms typically do to support a company – sending us press clippings, conducting research, writing messaging documents, and reaching out to reporters.” This was the vast bulk of our work – providing a wide range of traditional communications services. We weren’t hired as an “opposition research firm,” as many stories over the past week have erroneously asserted.
Second, Mr. Schrage states that Facebook asked us to provide background research on critics and competitors of the company. This is standard across industries in the public affairs space. As Mr. Schrage writes, “I believe it would be irresponsible and unprofessional for us not to understand the backgrounds and potential conflicts of interest of our critics. This work can be used internally to inform our messaging and where appropriate it can be shared with reporters. This work is also useful to help respond to unfair claims where Facebook has been singled out for criticism, and to positively distinguish us from competitors.”
Third, Mr. Schrage confirmed that after George Soros called Facebook a “menace to society” in early 2018, Facebook asked us to do public records research to “determine if he has any financial motivation” for his position. Mr. Schrage also stated that Facebook “asked Definers to help understand the groups behind” the “Freedom From Facebook” coalition, which pitched itself as a grassroots group. As Mr. Schrage writes, “They learned that George Soros was funding several of the coalition members. They prepared documents and distributed these to the press to show that this was not simply a spontaneous grassroots movement.”
The charge that this public records research somehow constituted a “smear campaign” against Mr. Soros and anti-Facebook groups is a completely false and an unfortunate part of the story.
As we have previously said, we are proud of our work with Facebook, which has been public since Axios first reported on it in October 2017. Definers has worked with dozens of tech reporters on Facebook and related stories for more than a year. This was no secret.
Facebook sits at the center of some of the most contentious public debates of our day, so we understand why this work is of interest. But we hope that this statement from Facebook will help reset the conversation in fact.