LinkedIn cofounder Reid Hoffman addresses disinformation scandal in Alabama race

By Rina Raphael

Internet billionaire Reid Hoffman wants to set the record straight. On Wednesday, the cofounder of LinkedIn issued an apology related to reports of his involvement in widespread disinformation during the 2017 Alabama special election for U.S. Senate.

The New York Times extensively covered the scandal in which a social media project–carried out on Facebook and Twitter–was designed to help Democrat Doug Jones edge out Republican Roy S. Moore. One part of the project included a fake Facebook page in which operators posed as conservative Alabamians, “using it to try to divide Republicans and even to endorse a write-in candidate to draw votes from Mr. Moore.”

In a post titled, “Truth and Politics” published on Medium, Hoffman said he was completely unaware of the issue prior to reading the Times‘s coverage. In his defense, he stresses, “The Times articles imply that I had knowledge of it and that I endorsed its tactics.” He asserts that he was not aware this money was funding the effort. The statement serves as Hoffman’s first acknowledgement of ties to the campaign.

“I categorically disavow the use of misinformation to sway an election,” writes Hoffman, adding that he deliberately funds multiple organizations “trying to re-establish civic, truth-focused discourse in the U.S.,” and that he would have refused to invest in any organization with such dishonest tactics.

He also further notes that he believes there is no place in U.S. democracy for manipulating facts or relying on blatant lies for a party’s endgame.

Nevertheless, Hoffman takes the opportunity to issue an apology on behalf of his money’s ill-fated outcome. The $750,000 he donated ultimately funded the American Engagement Technologies (AET), which carried out the effort.

“That I had no knowledge of the actions the Times describes does not absolve me of my ethical responsibility to exercise adequate diligence in monitoring my investments,” he writes. “Senator Doug Jones has called for an inquiry into this alleged operation which, from reading the Times, I agree is a good idea.”

Moving forward, Hoffman claims his team is already under way in drafting new policies to properly vet investments as well as oversee where the money goes.  The team intends to publish these politics publicly in the near future.

“I will continue working to making our political institutions more inclusive and responsive to a full range of constituents, more transparent and accountable, and more secure against the influence of those who’d like to undermine our democratic processes and commitment to truth-telling,” ends Hoffman.


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