Definers Public Affairs, the lobbying and opposition research firm whose work on behalf of Facebook has the tech giant facing uncomfortable new scrutiny, launched a partnership a year ago with Dentons with a mission to “disrupt the political, regulatory and communications environment over the long term,” the law firm said at the time.
Now it’s unclear what has come of the joint effort, dubbed 3D Global Affairs—though both parties say Dentons was not involved in Definers’ work for Facebook.
Dentons and Definers announced the strategic alliance in November 2017, saying it would ”combine Dentons’ capabilities, including law, government affairs, political intelligence and research, crisis and strategic communications with those of Definers into a single campaign-style war room operation to help achieve client’s objectives.”
Earlier this month Dentons updated its webpage for 3D Global Affairs, removing language that identified it as “a joint product offering from Dentons and Definers,” according to a cached version of the page.
A Definers source said Friday the 3D Global Affairs was still a joint venture with Dentons—as Definers still displays on its own website—and that Facebook was not a client of 3D Global Affairs. 3D Global Public Affairs does not publicly disclose its clients, and the firm does not appear in lobbying databases.
A Dentons spokesperson confirmed that Facebook is not a client of 3D Global Affairs. As for the alliance with Definers, the spokesperson said, “I don’t think anything has changed in the relationship regarding 3D, adding that, ”we routinely make edits to our website.” Dentons public policy chair Eric Tanenblatt, who is listed as 3D Global Affairs’ primary contact, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Definers Public Affairs made a splash in Silicon Valley last year when its veteran Republican operatives landed in California to compete for business in the Bay Area’s Democratic-dominated tech scene. Earlier this week, a New York Times headline called the company “Facebook’s attack dog” and described its tactics as “dark arts” and in a story examining Definers’ work for the social networking company. In what the Times described as a corporate variation on political opposition research, Definers reportedly tracked senators’ spending on Facebook ads and tallied Facebook’s campaign donations to senators, and then used the information to try to persuade reporters that Facebook’s critics on Congress were hypocrites.
Following the Times’ reporting, Facebook said it opted to sever ties with Definers. It is unclear whether any of Definers’ other client relationships have changed.
Given the shifting balance of power in the U.S. House of Representatives, technology and social media companies such as Facebook could face new inquiries about privacy, foreign influence and other matters when the Democratic-led House is seated in 2019. At an American Bar Association event in D.C. earlier this month, before the mid-term elections, Facebook’s departing general counsel Colin Stretch said the company had put a “significant amount of resources” into responding to government requests for information.