Ronn Torossian, CEO, 5WPR
No one following media in the 21st century, who understands the shifting dynamics of information delivery, downplays the importance of Facebook on the culture and the exchange of ideas. That influence is one of the primary reasons why the company has faced so much public scrutiny over the previous two years.
Many people in many other areas of influence are openly wondering if Facebook has too much power to create and share narratives and ideas.
Recently, several United States Senators demanded answers from Facebook related to allegations the company used hired PR guns to “retaliate against or spread intentionally inflammatory information about their critics…”
The open letter, addressed to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was quickly distributed by the media, and it left no doubt as to where the Senators stood on the issue. In part, the letter read:
“We are gravely concerned by recent reports indicating that your company used contractors to retaliate against or spread intentionally inflammatory information about your critics… Both elected officials and the general public have rightfully questioned whether Facebook is capable of regulating its own conduct.”
These allegations appear to be based on Facebook’s hiring of a PR firm to manage the fallout from its disastrous PR crises including the international privacy breach and rumors that outside agitators used Facebook pages and advertising to “interfere” in the U.S. political elections.
The allegations being made in the letter include that Facebook approved of content developed and distributed that made accusations against Facebook’s tech industry competition, including Google and Apple, in an effort to distract headlines away from Facebook’s ongoing PR woes. Some of the Senators have gone so far as to indicate that the efforts made on behalf of Facebook “may have campaign finance and other potential legal implications…”
While neither Facebook nor the PR firm accused in the letter have responded, as of the writing of this article, the allegations enough are causing quite a stir, and giving a clear target to people who feel that Facebook is too big or too powerful to be properly regulated or managed.
However, opposition research and deflection are common tactics in crisis response, and some are already calling the letter and the accompanying allegations a “witch hunt” and worse. They say Facebook has every right to defend its brand in the public square, and that this is little more than retaliation against Facebook for its perceived role in political forums. Whatever track this narrative takes, it will be very interesting to watch.