On 4th November, the New York Times published a scathing report on Facebook that threw the tech giant under scrutiny for its leadership morales. The report pointed out how Facebook has been following the strategy of ‘delaying, denying and deflecting’ the blame for all the controversies surrounding it. One of the recent scandals it was involved in was hiring a PR firm- called Definers- who did opposition research and shared content that criticized Facebook’s rivals Google and Apple, diverting focus from the impact of Russian interference on Facebook. They also pushed the idea that liberal financier George Soros was behind a growing anti-Facebook movement.
Now, in a memo sent by Elliot Schrage (Facebook’s outgoing Head of Communications and Policy) to Facebook employees and obtained by TechCrunch, he takes the blame for hiring The Definers.
Elliot Schrage, who after the Cambridge Analytica scandal, announced in June that he was leaving, admitted that his team asked Definers to push negative narratives about Facebook’s competitors. He also stated that Facebook asked Definers to conduct research on liberal financier George Soros. His argument was that after George Soros attacked Facebook in a speech at Davos, calling them a “menace to society”, they wanted to determine if he had any financial motivation.
According to the TechCrunch report, Elliot denied that the company asked the PR firm to distribute or create fake news.
“I knew and approved of the decision to hire Definers and similar firms. I should have known of the decision to expand their mandate,” Schrage said in the memo.
He further stresses on being disappointed that a lot of the company’s internal discussion has become public. According to the memo, “This is a serious threat to our culture and ability to work together in difficult times.”
Saving Mark and Sheryl from additional finger pointing, Schrage further added “Over the past decade, I built a management system that relies on the teams to escalate issues if they are uncomfortable about any project, the value it will provide or the risks that it creates. That system failed here and I’m sorry I let you all down. I regret my own failure here.”
As a follow-up note to the memo, Sheryl Sandberg (COO, Facebook) also shares accountability of hiring Deniers. She says “I want to be clear that I oversee our Comms team and take full responsibility for their work and the PR firms who work with us”
Conveniently enough, this memo comes after the announcement that Elliot is stepping down from his post at Facebook.
Elliot’s replacement, Facebook’s new head of global policy and former U.K. Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg will now be reviewing its work with all political consultants.
The entire scandal has led to harsh criticism from the media circle like Kara Swisher and from academics like Scott Galloway.
On an episode of Pivot with Kara Swisher and Scott Galloway, Kara comments that “Sheryl Sandberg … really comes off the worst in this story, although I still cannot stand the ability of people to pretend that this is not all Mark Zuckerberg’s responsibility,”
She further followed up with a jarring comment stating “He is the CEO. He has 60 percent. He’s an adult, and they’re treating him like this sort of adult boy king who doesn’t know what’s going on. It’s ridiculous. He knows exactly what’s going on.”
Galloway added that since Sheryl had “written eloquently on personal loss and the important discussion around gender equality”, these accomplishments gave her “unfair” protection, and that it might also be true that she will be “unfairly punished.” He raises questions on both, Mark and Sheryl’s leadership saying “Can you think of any individuals who have made so much money doing so much damage? I mean, they make tobacco executives look like Mister Rogers.”
On 19th November, he tweeted a detailed theory on why Sandberg is yet a part of Facebook; because “The Zuck can’t be (fired)” and nobody wants to be the board who “fires the woman”.
The only reason Sheryl Sandberg has not been fired is because The Zuck can't be (fired). Nobody wants to be the board who "fires the woman" when her boss should bare responsibility,,,but doesn't as he's immune via 2 class stock.
— Scott Galloway (@profgalloway) November 19, 2018
Here’s another recent tweet thread from Scott which is a sarcastic take on what a “Big Tech” company actually is:
Big Tech Definitions: "Connect the world" = "Addict/Damage/Deflect"
— Scott Galloway (@profgalloway) November 21, 2018
Head over to CNBC to know more about this news.
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