NEW YORK—In response to Wednesday’s New York Times report that included revelations Facebook had hired a firm to discredit its critics, PEN America issued the following statement:

“Facebook has long held itself out as an open platform that is given vitality and expression through its users and that aspires to connect people across the world.  Facebook has gradually acknowledged serious problems surrounding hate speech on the platform and the abuse of user data by third parties, recognizing its own failures to identify and rectify major abuses. The alarming news that Facebook employed an opposition-research firm to discredit activists critical of its policies, in part by linking them to philanthropist George Soros, represents something more deliberate and nefarious. Facebook sought to discredit its critics, borrowing from the playbook of the world’s most odious regimes to silence dissent. No longer a passive vessel for fraudulent information, Facebook has with these actions stepped into the role of creating and spreading fraudulent information and spreading conspiracy theories. In its terms of service, Facebook commits to ’empower [the user] to express yourself and communicate about what matters to you.’ That commitment must apply universally, including to views that challenge Facebook’s corporate interests or desired media narrative. Facebook must now move convincingly to provide full transparency regarding its misinformation efforts, to hold those responsible for these misdeeds accountable and to create confidence that such practices will not recur in future.”

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PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. pen.org

CONTACT: Anoosh Gasparian, External Relations Manager: agasparian@pen.org