Facebook's Sandberg asked team to investigate Soros' financial dealings

Ms Sandberg has come under fire for Facebook’s handling of a rising tide of criticism

FILE - In this Jan. 17, 2017, file photo, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, delivers a speech during the visit of a start-up companies gathering at Paris' Station F in Paris. For the past decade, Sheryl Sandberg has been the poised, reliable second-in-command to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, helping steer Facebook’s rapid growth around the world, while also cultivating her brand in ways that hint at aspirations well beyond the social network. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus, File)
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Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg told employees to investigate financial dealings by George Soros, the billionaire who criticised the company at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January.

Ms Sandberg wanted to determine whether Mr Soros had a financial incentive to see the company’s share price decline, Facebook said in a statement. The social networking giant said it had been looking into his holdings and trading activity.

"That research was already underway when Sheryl sent an email asking if Mr Soros had shorted Facebook's stock," Facebook said in a statement. Her directive was previously reported by the New York Times.

Ms Sandberg has come under fire for Facebook’s handling of a rising tide of criticism, much of it related to the spread of disinformation across the social network. She initially denied knowing that the company had hired public relations firm Definers, which drew links between Mr Soros and some of the company’s critics.

Ms Sandberg later conceded that "some of their work was incorporated into materials presented to me and I received a small number of emails where Definers was referenced." Thursday’s statement draws a more direct link between the executive and Facebook’s response to Mr Soros.

Concerns over how Facebook has reacted to Mr Soros emerged earlier this month in the wake of a New York Times article outlining the ways Definers attempted to deflect criticism of the company.

The PR firm was hired to look into links between Mr Soros and purportedly grassroots groups, such as "Freedom from Facebook," that publicly lambasted the social network owner.

Definers “learned that George Soros was funding several of the coalition members,” Elliot Schrage, Facebook’s outgoing head of communications and policy, said in a statement last week. “They prepared documents and distributed these to the press to show that this was not simply a spontaneous grassroots movement.”