New York Times Accuses Facebook Of Dark PR Practices

A new report published in the New York Times has put Facebook in a new controversy allegedly over its usage of tactics for discrediting its critics, embarrassing rival companies and to soften issues at the firm.

The methods that are used by the largest social media platform and a public relations company for denying and deflecting criticism.

This report has triggered calls by US law makers for stricter regulation for controlling and governing of social networks.

All of the claims have so far been denied by Facebook.

According to the report in the New York Times, the allegations against Facebook include:

  • The firm had induced reporters to conduct investigations about possible links between an anti-Facebook movement and the billionaire George Soros, a prominent philanthropist.
  • The company attempted to paint protesters against Facebook as anti-Semitic
  • Manipulated to ensure negative articles about rival companies
  • Tried to conceal Russian involvement in the US elections and was late to react
  • Contemplated creating fake controversies about rival companies.

Documents that suggested that the individual to secretly back the anti-Facebook movement called Freedom from Facebook was backed by Soros was circulated by a PR firm called Definers, said the newspaper report. The campaign by the PR firm was aimed at enticing journalists to examine and investigate the any form of financial relationship between Soros and the anti-Facebook groups and Soros has been earlier accused of creating conspiracy and anti-Semitic.

No grants were made by it to support the anti-Facebook campaign, said Soros’s Open Society Foundations. It expressed astonishment at the behaviour of Facebook.

“Your methods threaten the very values underpinning our democracy,” said its president, Patrick Gaspard.

In its defence to this allegation as expressed in the news report, Facebook said it had intended to show that Freedom From Facebook was “not simply a spontaneous grassroots campaign” and that the movement was “supported by a well-known critic of our company”.

Neither he nor chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg had been “in the loop” or had knowledge of the activities of Definers, said Chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and added that the firm’s contracts with Facebook would be terminated.,

The manner in which Facebook makes use of other lobbyists would be reviewed by Sir Nick Clegg. He is UK’s former deputy prime minister and had recently been hired by the social media company.

A House Judiciary Committee hearing where testimony was being given by a Facebook executive was interrupted by protesters in July. The protesters also carried posters with them in which am octopus was shown having heads pictures of Zuckerberg and Sandberg as its two heads. The tentacles of the octopus were shown wrapped around the world.

The report also alleged that the decision of the chief information security officer of Facebook, Alex Stamos, to initiate an inquiry into the allegations of Russian election meddling without taking any permission from the company had angered the company’s executives.

Facebook could get “exposed” to legal action because of the investigations, believed Sandberg, the report said.

The report further alleged that Facebook had planted articles in the dozens that were critical of the business practices of Apple and Google. Conservative news site NTK Network had carried the articles and that firm an office and staff sharing agreement with Facebook’s PR firm Definers.

There had been “no need to employ anyone else” to criticise Apple, Facebook has said.  The company added that there was deep involvement of Zuckerberg and chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg in combating fake news.

(Adapted form BBC.com)

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