Facebook's smear campaign against Google ends up in fiasco
12 May 2011
Facebook's engagement of a PR firm to allegedly launch a smear campaign against Google, has boomeranged on the social networking site after one of the PR people spoke to the wrong person.
Facebook had apparently hired one of the top PR agencies in the business, Burson-Marsteller, to plant anti-Google stories in newspapers and blogs, to bash Google's Social Circle feature in Gmail over supposed privacy concerns.
The plot came to light when John Mercurio from Burson-Marsteller emailed Christopher Soghoian, a security and privacy researcher and blogger, asking him if he would run a story on Google's privacy issues. The story would focus in detail on what Google was doing wrong. Sohogian, going along with the spin, asked Mercurio to identify who was paying the PR agency to pitch these stories, but Mercurio said that he could not reveal his client at the time.
Soghoian, not convinced about the fears over Social Circle, decided to publish the email exchange online, adding that Social Circle was safe and Soghoian was exaggerating.
The PR agency also tried other media outlets to push its smear campaign, including USA Today, The Washington Post, Politico and The Huffington Post. USA Today decided against running the story and reported how it was approached by the PR firm on behalf of an "unnamed client".
The suspicions initially focused on Apple and Microsoft for authoring the smear attacks but The Daily Beast found out that that Facebook was the culprit.