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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Photo: Photo: Christophe Morin/IP3/Getty Images

Facebook has ended its contract with Definers Public Affairs, a consulting firm that came under fire on Wednesday after the New York Times published an investigation focused in part on the tactics it had used to take on critics of the social giant.

The big picture: The Times story portrayed Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg as disengaged from some of the key debates over speech and misinformation at the company.

Details: The New York Times story said that Definers had distributed materials trying to link Freedom From Facebook, which advocates the breakup of the company, to the liberal donor George Soros, who has been subject to anti-Semitic attacks.

  • Soros' Open Society Foundations funds non-profits that are part of the coalition but has long said it is not funding the specific Facebook breakup campaign itself.
  • A conservative site called NTK Network with ties to Definers also reportedly posted stories critical of Facebook's competitors.

Facebook ended its relationship with the right-leaning Definers on Wednesday as criticism mounted, including from the president of the Open Society Foundations. The decision was first reported by the Times.

  • "The New York Times is wrong to suggest that we ever asked Definers to pay for or write articles on Facebook’s behalf — or to spread misinformation," the company said in a blog post.
  • A Facebook source familiar with the matter said that Zuckerberg and Sandberg had not been aware of the work the consulting firm was doing for the company.

What they're saying: "We are proud to have partnered with Facebook over the past year on a range of public affairs services," said a spokesperson for Definers in a statement.

  • "The document referenced in the Times story regarding the anti-Facebook organization's potential funding sources was entirely factual and based on public records, including public statements by one of its organizers about receiving funding from Mr. Soros' foundation."

What's next? Facebook pushed back against the broader contention that major company executives had mishandled controversy after controversy. "Mark and Sheryl have been deeply involved in the fight against false news and information operations on Facebook — as they have been consistently involved in all our efforts to prevent misuse of our services," the company said in the blog post.

Go deeper

Jan. 6 panel subpoenas 2 far-right "America First" activists

The House panel investigating the Capitol riot, from left; Reps. Bennie Thompson, Liz Cheney, Adam Kinzinger and Jamie Raskin on Capitol Hill in December. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The House select committee investigating the Capitol riot issued subpoenas Wednesday for far-right leaders Nick Fuentes and Patrick Casey, who allegedly encouraged followers to go to D.C. and challenge the 2020 election results.

Why it matters: The action underscores the panel's increasing focus on rallies held ahead of the Capitol attack and how extremists were drawn to former President Trump's baseless claims of widespread voter fraud, per the New York Times.

Democrats fail to change Senate rules to pass voting rights bill

Senate Majority Leader during a news conference in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Democrats failed Wednesday night to change Senate filibuster rules to pass the voting rights bill, with Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) voting with Republicans.

The big picture: The failed effort came after Senate Republicans blocked the voting rights measure from coming to a final vote earlier Wednesday.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Supreme Court rejects Trump's attempt to shield documents from Jan. 6 committee

Photo: Melissa Sue Gerrits/Getty Images

The Supreme Court rejected on Wednesday night a bid by former President Trump to block the release of documents and records from his administration to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.

Why it matters: Trump asked the Supreme Court to step in and block the release of the documents last month after a panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit unanimously denied his attempt to prevent the committee from obtaining the materials.