Monday 19 March 2018

Facebook 'hired PR firm to smear Google'

Facebook has been accused of hiring a top PR firm to spread anti-Google news to the US press. Photo: Getty Images
Facebook has been accused of hiring a top PR firm to spread anti-Google news to the US press. Photo: Getty Images

Emma Barnett

Facebook hired a top public relations firm to spread anti-Google stories to the US press, according to reports.

US news site The Daily Beast reports that Facebook has admitted hiring Burson-Marsteller, a PR company, to place negative stories about Google in American press outlets.

Executives from Burson-Marsteller approached a well known blogger, Christopher Soghoian, who blogs about security, urging him to investigate Google’s privacy policy, and in exchange they would help him get the piece published on influential sites such as The Huffington Post and The Washington Post.

Burson-Marsteller even offered to help the blogger write the piece telling Soghoian: “The American people must be made aware of the now immediate intrusions into their deeply personal lives Google is cataloguing and broadcasting every minute of every day—without their permission.”

However, Soghoian refused, saying the company was making a mountain out of a molehill and then posted the emails online showing what the company had been trying to do.

USA Today then ran with the piece and accused Burson of spreading a “whisper campaign” about Google for an unknown client.

Dan Lyons, a writer for The Daily Beast, then wrote to say he has found evidence to prove it was Facebook who hired Burson-Marstellar and that Facebook have admitted doing so.

He wrote: “Confronted with evidence, a Facebook spokesman last night [yesterday] confirmed that Facebook hired Burson, citing two reasons: First, because it believes Google is doing some things in social networking that raise privacy concerns; second, and perhaps more important, because Facebook resents Google’s attempts to use Facebook data in its own social-networking service.

“Like a Cold War spy case made public, the PR fiasco reveals—and ratchets up—the growing rivalry between Google and Facebook.

"Google, the search giant, views Facebook as a threat, and has been determined to fight back by launching a social-networking system of its own.

"So far, however, Google has not had much luck, but Facebook nonetheless felt it necessary to return fire—clandestinely.”

A Facebook spokesperson said the company had no further comment.

Google and Facebook’s rivalry is one of the biggest between any two major technology companies at the moment.

Both are competing for advertising dollars and eyeballs online. With Facebook accounting for an increasing amount of time spent by people on the web, Google is prioritising its social strategy.

The search giant has yet to create a siginificant social network alternative to Facebook, but newly installed chief executive and Google co-founder, Larry Page is supposedly working on a network called Google Circles. It had been expected to launch this week at Google’s developer conference, however no mention was made.

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