Investors of Facebook have called on the company’s chief executive Mark Zuckerberg resign as chairman, following reports that the company hired a public relations firm to smear its critics by drawing links to George Soros.
The attack on Mr Zuckerberg is set to complicate the daunting challenge facing Sir Nick Clegg, Facebook’s new global head of policy and communications, who joined last month and has been asked to conduct a review of Facebook’s use of lobbying firms.
Jonas Kron, a senior vice president at Trillium Asset Management, a US investor which owns an £8.5m stake in Facebook, last night called on Mr Zuckerberg to step down as board chairman in the wake of the report.
“Facebook is behaving like it’s a special snowflake,” he said. “It’s not. It is a company and companies need to have a separation of chair and CEO.”
Both Mr Zuckerberg and Sir Nick have been under pressure following reports Facebook hired Definers, a Republican public relations firm, to help repair its battered reputation following intense criticism of the social media platform’s handling of a scandal over Russian interference in the 2016 US elections and the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
Definers allegedly encouraged the depiction of Facebook’s critics as anti-Semites and had published news articles criticising Facebook’s competitors. The business has also been accused of attempting to encourage journalists to report that anti-Facebook groups were linked to Mr Soros.
In a call with journalists on Thursday, Mr Zuckerberg denied knowing that his business had hired the firm. “As soon as I learned about this, I talked to our team and we are no longer working with this firm,” he said. He has also asked Sir Nick to launch a review of Facebook’s use of political lobbying firms.
Nevertheless, Mr Kron said the new revelations about Facebook’s use of Definers offered fresh reasons for Mr Zuckerberg to relinquish his dual role as chairman and chief executive.
“The latest report should remove any lingering doubts that some may have had,” he said.
Mr Zuckerberg has retained a high level of control over the social networking business which he founded in 2004 due to his combined role and his ownership of a stake representing 60pc of the company’s voting shares.