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Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images.

In a blog post on Thanksgiving Eve, Elliot Schrage, outgoing Head of Communications and Policy, tried to clean up revelations about Facebook's use of the now-fired Definers Public Affairs, an aggressive Arlington, Va., firm founded by Republican operatives.

The big picture: Facebook has followed a pattern throughout its hectic year: Pay too little attention to a looming threat, engage too little with journalists who are on to it, then rush pell-mell to try to correct the record, calm the storm and look proactive.

In the post, Schrage writes:

  • "We hired Definers in 2017 as part of our efforts to diversify our DC advisors after the election. Like many companies, we needed to broaden our outreach. We also faced growing pressure from competitors in tech, telcos and media companies that want government to regulate us."
  • "Who knew about this work, and who signed off on it? 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."
  • "Did we ask them to do work on George Soros? Yes. ... [W]hen 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's mea culpa was followed by this "Comment from Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg:"

  • "Thank you for sharing this, Elliot."
  • "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."
  • "I know this has been a distraction at a time when you’re all working hard to close out the year — and I am sorry."

A CNN on-screen headline captures the read-between-the-lines we heard from both coasts: "Could be interpreted as a way of saving COO Sheryl Sandberg."

  • Why this blew up, via The Guardian: "The work on Soros is sensitive because of the peculiar role that the Hungarian-born investor and philanthropist plays in rightwing conspiracy theories and among antisemites."
  • Why the kerfuffle is arguably overblown, via Wall Street Journal editorial board member Allysia Finley: "Em­ploy­ing PR firms to shape me­dia nar­ra­tives and chal­lenge the cred­i­bil­ity of op­po­nents ... is a stan­dard busi­ness prac­tice."

Be smart: Facebook seems to be adding a new realism to its founding idealism.

  • Mark Zuckerberg, who has lost $19 billion in net worth this year (down 27% to $54 billion, according to Bloomberg), said on CNN on Tuesday: "[T]hese are complex issues that you can't fix. You manage them on an ongoing basis."

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2 hours ago - Health

Meta removes over 600 accounts linked to COVID disinformation effort by China

Facebook's corporate headquarters campus in Menlo Park, California. Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images

Meta announced Wednesday it has removed over 600 Facebook and Instagram accounts linked to a Chinese influence operation that claimed the U.S. was pressuring the World Health Organization (WHO) to blame COVID on China.

Why it matters: Though Meta said the network was unsuccessful, it marks yet another COVID disinformation campaign instigated by China in an effort to discredit the U.S.

Stacey Abrams launches second campaign for Georgia governor

Photo: Eze Amos/Getty Images

Stacey Abrams, voting rights activist and former 2018 candidate for Georgia governor, is running for the position again in 2022. Abrams would be the first Black female governor in the country.

Why it matters: Abrams caught national attention in 2018 by narrowly losing an election to Republican Gov. Brian Kemp in a state held firmly by the GOP for nearly two decades.

First known U.S. case of Omicron variant identified in California

Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks during the daily briefing at the White House on Dec. 1. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

The first known U.S. case of the Omicron variant was detected in California, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed Wednesday.

Driving the news: The confirmed case was detected in a traveler returning from South Africa who was fully vaccinated and has mild symptoms, according to the CDC.