San Francisco: Facebook investors have mounted pressure on Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg to step down from chairman post following a New York Times report which said that the social network hired a Republican-owned political consulting and PR firm that “dug up dirt on its competitors”.

Senior Vice President at Trillium Asset Management, Jonas Kron, who is also a major stakeholder in Facebook called on Zuckerberg to step down as board chairman, stated a Guardian report on Saturday. Jonas Kron reportedly said, “Facebook is behaving like it’s a special snowflake. It’s not. It is a company and companies need to have a separation of chair and CEO.”

According to The New York Times report, Facebook hired Definers Public Affairs, a Washington, D.C.-based conservative firm which did PR work for the social networking giant “and dug up dirt on the company’s competitors and its critics”.

However, in a press call, Zuckerberg denied the allegation.  “After reading the article, I got on the phone with our team and we are no longer working with this firm,” he said.

Another Facebook investor Natasha Lamb from Arjuna Capital said the combined role of chairman and chief executive means that “Facebook can avoid properly fixing problems inside the company”, said the report.

In a statement, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg also denied any knowledge of the firm. Facebook said that it used the consultant Definers Public Affairs to look into the funding of “Freedom from Facebook” to demonstrate that it was not simply a spontaneous grassroots campaign, as it claimed, “but supported by a well-known critic of our company,” presumably liberal financier George Soros.

Facebook has also refuted allegation that it knew about Russian activity as early as the spring of 2016 but was slow to investigate it at every turn. After the fallout of the report, Facebook’s stocks fell by 3 per cent on Friday to $139.53, which is the lowest since April 2017.

(With IANS inputs)