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News Alert: Facebook and Google Don't Like Each Other

Brian Hickey  Follow

Facebook OopsPortfolio News Editor Kent Bernhard, Jr. posted a piece on May 13 describing the perils of conducting a PR agency whispering campaign in the mega-watt environment known as Facebook-Google Land.  Judging from Bernhard's take on things, no one but Google comes out smelling sweet in this one.

The story (or story within a story) goes like this:

On May 3, former Harvard University researcher and tech blogger Christopher Soghoian got an email from PR firm Burson-Marsteller offering a ghost-written article critical of Google for violating privacy in its collection of user data.  The offending screed was specifically focused on Google’s incorporation of users’ Twitter and Facebook data in search results as part of its Social Circle campaign.

Soghoian passed on the byline offer.  (Apparently, ex Harvard researchers can do their own muckracking, thank you very much.)  Unfortunately for Facebook and Burson, Soghoian wasn’t the only outlet the agency pinged with its penned poison.  With others digging into the background of the offer, Thursday's news bore the first stories of Facebook being behind an attempt to “smear” Google.  The result is more than 900 articles on the "sneak attack" by Facebook and Burson. “Facebook-Google Rivalry Intensifies with PR Fiasco,” “Facebook’s Stealth Attack on Google,” “Facebook’s Antisocial PR Pitch Against Google,” and “Facebook’s Web of Deceit” are among the headlines destined to shame FB and Burson into a million kalpas of shame and accompanying social redemption. Or not.

Bernhard takes no prisoners in his penetrating bottom-line assessment – what, one wonders, would he make of the CIA's "get Castro" campaign? – though he adroitly slips in a plug for The Social Network.  (Should someone check to see whether Bernhard's a shareholder of Columbia Pictures? Where does this stop?)  His words:

So here are the losers and winners in this latest round of Silicon Valley and New York dirty business, starting with the losers:

The biggest loser, Facebook. With this stunt, Zuckerberg has lived up to every negative about him in the movie The Social Network: That he’s underhanded, arrogant, and ruthless.

Another loser, Burson-Marsteller. Sure, PR firms sometimes do dirty work for clients. We all know that. But Burson-Marsteller crossed the line by participating in a whisper campaign and not identifying its client. It will take some doing for the company to regain the trust of journalists.

A winner: The press. Yes, the press deserves a pat on the back for not just biting on some free content slamming a big company. Instead, reporters did their job, dug around, and came up with a much more interesting story.

The biggest winner: Google. It’s not often a company like Google gets to play the victim. But this time, it has that chance. And if there really are legitimate questions about its privacy practices, those are quickly swept away by that mantle of victimhood that a sneak attack brings.

So, way to go, Facebook. This one’s an exploding cigar that just blew up in your face.

Me?  I kinda always liked the exploding cigar gag. CJP

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