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New York Times article forces Facebook’s comms team to fight back

Facebook was accused of knowing about Russian election interference for longer than it has admitted

Facebook, one of a handful of tech giants known for a measured and often silent approach to communications, has vehemently hit back at a New York Times article that reported how its leadership team struggled to contain manifold scandals over the past two years.

Facebook has today (November 15) published a five-point rebuttal to the story, which was published yesterday under the headline Delay, Deny and Deflect: How Facebook’s Leaders Fought Through Crisis.

The report claims the company hired a PR firm to shift negative media attention onto rival tech companies, had prior knowledge of Russian interference in the US presidential election and told its management team members to boycott their iPhones after Apple boss Tim Cook made a disparaging remark about the platform.

Facebook’s five-pronged response uses assertive language to address what it dubs “inaccuracies”, such as “this is not true”, “in fact” and “The New York Times is wrong to suggest...” The hard-line nature of the response is a break away from its usual corporate communications style, which, like that of its Silicon Valley neighbors, has historically been diplomatic and muted in responding to particular press claims.

The social brand disputed a number of the article’s claims in particular, leading with the assertion that its former chief security officer, Alex Stamos, was discouraged by the C-suite into combating Russian interference.

Facebook also stated it never asked its public affairs agency, Definers, to “to pay for or write articles on Facebook’s behalf – or to spread misinformation”.

It stated: “Our relationship with Definers was well known by the media – not least because they have on several occasions sent out invitations to hundreds of journalists about important press calls on our behalf.”

However, Facebook noted that it has now ended its contract with Definers.

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