In a late-evening post on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, Facebook published an internal memo from Schrage assuming responsibility for the Definers contract and a corresponding note from Sandberg assuming responsibility for the Schrage’s communications team.
Schrage, who announced his departure from Facebook in June, said:
“Responsibility for these decisions rests with leadership of the Communications team. That’s me. Mark and Sheryl relied on me to manage this without controversy.
“I knew and approved of the decision to hire Definers and similar firms. I should have known of the decision to expand their mandate. Over the past decade, I built a management system that relies on the teams to escalate issues if they are uncomfortable about any project, the value it will provide or the risks that it creates. That system failed here and I’m sorry I let you all down. I regret my own failure here.”
“I want to be clear that I oversee our Comms team and take full responsibility for their work and the PR firms who work with us. I truly believe we have a world class Comms team and I want to acknowledge the enormous pressure the team has faced over the past year.
“When I read the story in New York Times last week, I didn’t remember a firm called Definers. I asked our team to look into the work Definers did for us and to double-check whether anything had crossed my desk. Some of their work was incorporated into materials presented to me and I received a small number of emails where Definers was referenced.”
As for what research Facebook tasked Definers to complete, Schrage said the firm was directed to research Soros:
“In January 2018, investor and philanthropist George Soros attacked Facebook in a speech at Davos, calling us a ‘menace to society.’ We had not heard such criticism from him before and wanted to determine if he had any financial motivation. Definers researched this using public information.
“Later, when the ‘Freedom from Facebook’ campaign emerged as a so-called grassroots coalition, the team asked Definers to help understand the groups behind them. They learned that George Soros was funding several of the coalition members. They prepared documents and distributed these to the press to show that this was not simply a spontaneous grassroots movement.”
Schrage also acknowledged that Definers was asked to “do work on our competitors” and “positively distinguish us from competitors.”