Zuckerberg should 'step down' from Facebook, tech pioneer says

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The content removal report comes one day after a report by the New York Times that detailed how COO Sheryl Sandberg and other Facebook execs tried to downplay and spin bad news.

- Seeking to undermine and discredit Facebook critics in a group called "Freedom From Facebook" by linking them to the billionaire Jewish philanthropist George Soros, a common tactic on the far right that's fueled by anti-Semitism.

So by now most people have probably read the New York Times deep dive into what can only be described as Facebook's deep well of internal dysfunction and self delusion.

Sandberg said Facebook was no longer working with Definers but added that "at the time, they were trying to show that some of the activity against us that appeared to be grassroots also had major organizations behind them".

While Mr. Zuckerberg conducted a public apology tour in the past year, Ms. Sandberg has overseen an aggressive lobbying campaign to combat Facebook's critics, shift public anger toward rival companies and ward off damaging regulation.

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Instead, he was pressed on issues raised in the Times investigation, such as how and why Facebook ended up hiring a firm called Definers, which is affiliated with a conservative news site called NTK Network and reportedly spread negative stories about rival technology firms to take heat off Facebook. Without naming Soros, a Hungarian-born Holocaust survivor, the company said its actions were aimed not at fueling anti-Semitism but rather at showing that the backlash was funded by a "well-known critic" of the company. He said that it was under his "understanding" that Facebook didn't hire the PR firm to "attack any competitors or something like that".

A Definers spokesman said the firm was "proud to have partnered with Facebook over the past year on a range of public affairs services" and said that its memo on "the anti-Facebook organisation's potential funding sources was entirely factual and based on public records, including public statements by one of its organisers about receiving funding from Mr. Soros' foundation". A new report carried by Business Insider seems to have revealed the identity of the third tech company as U.S. chipmaker Qualcomm.

In addition to being CEO and founder, Zuckerberg is chairman of Facebook's board and controls 60 percent of voting shares.

US intelligence agencies have concluded that Russian Federation interfered in the 2016 election to help Trump by undermining Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

Facebook wasn't immediately available for comment.

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The newspaper also suggested Facebook had struggled to work out how to deal with a post made by Donald Trump in 2015, calling for a ban on Muslim immigration. So is Sheryl Sandberg.

Patrick Gaspard, president of Soros' nonprofit Open Society Foundations, wrote an open letter to Sandberg earlier today, which criticized what he called "Facebook's smear campaign" against Soros, who has been demonized and the subject of death threats.

A letter to Zuckerberg signed by four Democratic senators expressed concern over the latest revelations and raised the prospect of tough regulation of social media.

Facebook also stated it never asked its public affairs agency, Definers, to "to pay for or write articles on Facebook's behalf - or to spread misinformation".

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