Facebook hired PR firm to smear Google, website claims

According to Daily Beast report, social-networking giant hired leading PR firm Burson-Marsteller to pitch anti-Google stories to newspapers.

By NADAV SHEMER
May 12, 2011 22:40
1 minute read.
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Social-networking giant Facebook allegedly hired a public-relations firm to plant negative stories about Web rival Google, US news website The Daily Beast reported Thursday.

Facebook hired leading PR firm Burson-Marsteller to pitch anti- Google stories to newspapers, urging them to investigate claims that Google was invading people’s privacy, according to the report by Dan Lyons.

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“Burson even offered to help an influential blogger write a Googlebashing op-ed, which it promised it could place in outlets like the Washington Post, Politico, and the Huffington Post,” the report said. “The plot backfired when the blogger turned down Burson’s offer and posted the e-mails that Burson had sent him. It got worse when USA Today broke a story accusing Burson of spreading a ‘whisper campaign’ about Google ‘on behalf of an unnamed client.’” The Daily Beast reported that while some suspected Apple or Microsoft of being behind the smear campaign, it discovered that Facebook was in fact responsible. The report quoted a Facebook spokesman as confirming the allegations and citing two reasons for Facebook’s actions: first, because the company believes Google is doing some things in social networking that raise privacy concerns; and second, because Facebook resents Google’s attempts to use Facebook data in its own social-networking service.

The source for Facebook’s concern seems to be Google’s launch of a tool called Social Circle, which, similarly to Facebook, allows people with Gmail accounts view information about friends of friends in what the search giant has labeled “secondary connections.”

When approached by the Financial Times Tech Hub blog, Google and Facebook spokespeople declined to comment, but Burson-Marsteller confirmed its assignment for Facebook.

Burson-Marsteller CEO Mark Penn has worked with many highprofile clients, most notably as chief strategist of Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign and as a political consultant for her husband, Bill Clinton.

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