Sunday, May 15, 2011
Facebook secretly hires PR firm to throw mud at Google
Editor's note: Social media is all the rage. Micro-blogs like Twitter are increasingly popular and seen as alternatives to traditional news sources. Citizen journalism and social media are often pointed to as examples of how information will be both collected and disseminated in the future. But given what we have discussed and read in this class so far, is Facebook journalism? Or is it just a digital bulletin board? And would any self-respecting journalistic organization act along the lines of what is reported in this story? So what can we conclude about social media. It may be content and it may be popular - but is it journalism? Please respond to this post. - MT
NYT - For years, Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Facebook, has extolled the virtue of transparency, and he built Facebook accordingly. The social network requires people to use their real identity in large part because Mr. Zuckerberg says he believes that people behave better — and society will be better — if they cannot cloak their words or actions in anonymity.
“Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity,” Mr. Zuckerberg has said.
Now, Facebook is being taken to task for trying to conceal its own identity as it sought to coax reporters and technology experts to write critical stories about the privacy implications of a search feature, Social Circle, from its rival, Google.
The plan backfired after The Daily Beast revealed late Wednesday that Facebook, whose own privacy practices have long been criticized, was behind the effort. It didn’t help that some of the technology experts who were encouraged to criticize Google dismissed the privacy concerns around Social Circle as misplaced.
Facebook insiders, who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter, said the company hired the well-known public relations firm Burson-Marsteller to suggest stories about Social Circle to reporters because it did not want the issue to turn into a Facebook versus Google story. Social Circle is an optional feature of Google search that uses publicly available information from social networks to personalize search results.
In a statement issued Thursday, Facebook said: “We wanted third parties to verify that people did not approve of the collection and use of information from their accounts on Facebook and other services for inclusion in Google Social Circles. We engaged Burson-Marsteller to focus attention on this issue, using publicly available information that could be independently verified by any media organization or analyst. The issues are serious and we should have presented them in a serious and transparent way.”
Companies in Silicon Valley and elsewhere routinely approach reporters and analysts with stories about the so-called misdeeds of their competitors. But journalism and public relations experts criticized Facebook for doing so anonymously and insisting that Burson-Marsteller not reveal its identity.
Facebook, Foe of Anonymity, Is Forced to Explain a Secret - NYTimes.com