George Soros, the liberal billionaire financier, has ramped up his criticism of major tech companies despite investing millions into companies he has singled out such as Facebook and Alphabet, Google's parent company.
Soros, who attacked the companies at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, says he is looking into ways to counter the influence of big tech. Soros has additionally said the "monopolistic behavior" of such companies—which often back liberal causes and politicians—leads to "obstacles of innovation" that have caused a number of problems.
"The rise and monopolistic behavior of the giant American Internet platform companies is contributing mightily to the U.S. government’s impotence," Soros wrote in an op-ed. "These companies have often played an innovative and liberating role. But as Facebook and Google have grown ever more powerful, they have become obstacles to innovation, and have caused a variety of problems of which we are only now beginning to become aware."
Over the past several years, Soros has invested millions in Facebook and other projects associated with the company. Soros also still holds thousands of shares in Alphabet.
The deep-pocketed investor spent more than $10 million in 2012 acquiring a stake in Facebook and was later a part of a group of 20 billionaires, including Mark Zuckerberg, Facbook's CEO, in investing in the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, which was launched to invest in clean energy.
Soros purchased more than 350,000 shares in Facebook in the fourth quarter of 2016 while simultaneously increasing his stake in Alphabet to 20,200 shares.
Soros, along with a number of other wealthy liberal donors, also provided funding in late 2016 to the International Fact Checking Network, a group used to flag "fake news" stories on Facebook that came under scrutiny by Republicans for its potential bias towards liberal causes.
Soros began reducing his shares in tech companies in 2017 by selling his stakes in companies such as Apple and Snap. Soros appears to have completely divested from Facebook at the end of last year, right before publicly criticizing them.
However, Soros still has thousands of shares in Alphabet. Since mid-November of last year, he increased his number of shares from 3,000 to 4,600, according to Soros Fund Management's most recent filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The sudden Soros pivot is noteworthy given his past investments with major tech companies. Prominent members of such companies also tend to be generous backers of liberal causes, and high-ranking individuals at tech companies also helped Hillary Clinton's failed presidential campaign.
Eric Schmidt, who recently stepped down from his position as executive chairman of Google's parent company, Alphabet, but still remains on its board, was working directly with Clinton's campaign. Detailed information on his involvement was contained within the hacked emails of John Podesta, Clinton's former campaign manager.
A group that was backed by Schmidt was providing services for the campaign. While the group was never mentioned by name in any of the emails or PDF files, Schmidt provided funding to the Groundwork, a tech start up that was developed through Timshell, a company co-founded by Michael Slaby, the former chief integration and innovation officer for the Obama campaign. The Groundwork was ultimately paid nearly $700,000 by the Clinton campaign.
The same memo mentioning Schmidt's involvement also spoke of "discreet conservations" with Facebook and Apple that were facilitated months before Clinton had launched her campaign. Schmidt later appeared at Clinton's election night party wearing a "staff" badge.
Soros's Open Society Foundations have now said it is "examining new ways to counter the influence of big tech" and have given a six-figure grant to the Open Markets Institute, a group that uses journalism to promote greater awareness of monopolization, for "work around web platforms."
Soros's foundation did not return a request for comment on his previous tech investments.