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Facebook fallout: Civil rights groups call for firing of executive

They want to see the company's VP of global public policy handed a pink slip. They also want Facebook to release a civil rights audit and any opposition research done on them by Definers Public Affairs.

Facebook VP of Global Public Policy Joel Kaplan

Facebook VP of Global Public Policy Joel Kaplan.

Niall Carson/Getty Images

The uproar over how Facebook executives handled a series of scandals continues to grow. 

In a press conference Tuesday, three civil rights groups, Color of Change, Bend the Arc: Jewish Action, and Public Citizen called on the world's largest social network to fire Joel Kaplan, vice president of global public policy for Facebook. The groups also want Facebook to release a civil rights audit and any opposition research done on them by Definers Public Affairs, a firm that Facebook ended its contract with after an investigation by The New York Times.  

Last week, the Times reported that Definers Public Affairs tried to discredit Facebook's critics by linking them to liberal and Jewish billionaire George Soros. Definers circulated a research document and tried to press reporters to dig into financial ties between Soros and members of Freedom from Facebook, a coalition of Facebook critics that's urged regulators to break up the social media giant.

Soros has been the target of anti-Semitic and far-right conspiracy theories. Some critics say that by pointing the finger at alleged behind-the-scenes activity by Soros, Facebook, through Definers, played on the conspiracy theories, intentionally or not.

"While we were sitting across the table operating in good faith, they were trying to undermine us with anti-Semitic and anti-black tropes," Rashad Robinson, president of Color of Change, one of the groups reportedly targeted by Definers, said during the press conference.

Facebook acknowledged that Definers asked reporters to look into the funding of Freedom from Facebook, but it said in a statement that to "suggest that this was an anti-Semitic attack is reprehensible and untrue."

Kaplan reportedly raised concerns about suppressing conservative speech as the company weighed whether to boot Donald Trump from the platform in 2015 for allegations of hate speech. The role Kaplan has played within Facebook has "made things worse," Robinson said.

CNET reached out to Facebook but the company didn't immediately respond.

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