Billionaire philanthropist George Soros has criticized Facebook's decision to not fact-check ads from politicians and slammed the company's leadership, raising fears that the world's largest social network could help get Donald Trump reelected as president. Soros' remarks show how the company still faces an uphill battle as it tries to repair its tarnished image after a series of scandals.
The Hungarian-American billionaire said last week that Trump and Facebook appear to be conspiring to help one another, allegations that the social network told Business Insider were "plain wrong." In an op-ed published in The New York Times on Friday, Soros said he disagreed with Facebook's response.
"I believe that Mr. Trump and Facebook's chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, realize that their interests are aligned — the president's in winning elections, Mr. Zuckerberg's in making money," he wrote in the op-ed.
He pointed to Facebook embedding staff to help Trump's 2016 campaign run targeted ads on the social network and with the president last year.
Soros, who also argued that Zuckerberg and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg should not be in control of the company, thinks that if Facebook helps Trump get reelected the president will defend the company against regulators and the media.
Facebook didn't immediately respond to a request for comment, but told the Times that Soros was "wrong." "The notion that we are aligned with any one political figure or party runs counter to our values and the facts," a Facebook spokesperson told the Times.
Tensions between Facebook and Soros have heated up since the Times reported that Facebook hired an opposition-research firm called Definers Public Affairs to discredit the company's toughest critics, including Soros. In 2018, the philanthropist said during a speech at the World Economic Forum that Facebook and Google were a "menace" to society and should be regulated.
Soros, the founder of the philanthropic organization Open Society Foundations, is also one of many critics who say Zuckerberg has too much control over the company. Zuckerberg owns the majority of voting rights to Facebook, making it tough for others to keep his power in check.
Facebook's mission is to "bring the world closer together," but it's been criticized for tearing at the fabric of democracy. Russian trolls used the social network to sow discord among Americans during the 2016 US presidential election and Facebook doesn't send ads for politicians to fact-checkers. Facebook says that people should be able to see for themselves what politicians are saying.
Soros thinks Facebook's words and actions just don't match up.
"Facebook should be judged by what it does, not what it says," he said in the op-ed.
From lawmakers to even its own co-founders, Facebook is no stranger to dealing with criticism. On Wednesday,said his goal over the next decade "isn't to be liked, but to be understood."
Originally published Jan. 31, 11:04 a.m.
Update, 12:10 p.m.: Adds statement Facebook provided to The New York Times.