Facebook exec Sheryl Sandberg is enduring another wave of negative headlines on Friday. The latest development: The New York Times reports that she requested research into billionaire George Soros after he went after Facebook. Sandberg sent an email to the company's communications team requesting the research after Soros called Facebook a "menace to society" at a global forum in January. Sandberg has been downplaying her role in the opposition research conducted on Soros and other Facebook critics ever since an earlier Times report revealed that Facebook had hired a firm called Definers Public Affairs. But the email, which BuzzFeed reports Facebook confirmed, suggests she played a larger role than first acknowledged. A Facebook statement downplayed the significance of the new report, saying Sandberg wanted to know if Soros stood to gain financially from his criticism.
“Mr. Soros is a prominent investor and we looked into his investments and trading activity related to Facebook,” the company said. “That research was already underway when Sheryl sent an email asking if Mr. Soros had shorted Facebook's stock." Sandberg initially said she was unaware Facebook had hired Definers, then acknowledged that some of its work had shown up on her desk. A spokesman for an anti-Facebook coalition called Freedom From Facebook said Sandberg has lost credibility. "In light of Sandberg’s continuously changing story on the Soros research, there's no way their denials about attacking other critics can be taken at face value," said Eddie Vale. He called on Facebook to release all emails about its opposition research. (Mark Zuckerberg says neither he nor Sandberg will be leaving the company anytime soon.)