A new report has exposed glaring hypocrisy in Facebook’s attitude to fake news. Can CEO Mark Zuckerberg weather yet another scandal?
An explosive New York Times report, published Wednesday, revealed that Facebook employed a PR firm to smear critics and publish hit-pieces on rival tech companies Apple and Google. These pieces were published on NTKNetwork.com, a site run by the firm that masqueraded as a real news site. NBC jumped on board the story, with a former employee of the firm calling NTKNetwork “our in-house fake news shop.”
Facebook claimed in response that the report was fake news. The company stated that it never asked the firm – a Washington DC-based company called Definers – to write articles or spread misinformation. CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that he was unaware of Facebook’s relationship with Definers, despite the fact that the company’s statement said that relationship was “well known by the media.”
Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg also denied knowledge of Definers’ relationship with Facebook.
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg refutes claims made against Facebook in a scathing New York Times report: "We absolutely did not pay anyone to create fake news" https://t.co/F9kXHmSyaM pic.twitter.com/v9ZL2u0iN4
— CBS News (@CBSNews) November 16, 2018
“We absolutely did not pay anyone to create fake news,” she told CBS News on Friday. “And again, we’re doing a thorough look into what happened but they have assured me that we were not paying anyone to either write or promote anything that was false.”
So who’s faking it?
The Times’ revelations sparked a flurry of discussion on social media, with the court of public opinion weighing in against Facebook.
Ironically, this latest scandal stems from Facebook’s attempts to cover up an earlier scandal: the Cambridge Analytica breach.
If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em
First revealed in March, the Cambridge Analytica scandal saw some 87 million Facebook users have their private data leaked to third party marketers. The revelation was followed by months of additional privacy scandals that saw Facebook’s stock take a hammering and Zuckerberg hauled before multiple Congressional committees to explain himself.
At a House Judiciary Committee hearing in July, protesters held up signs depicting Zuckerberg and Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg as giant octopuses, with their tentacles encircling the globe. Facebook complained to the Anti-Defamation League, who called the posters “a classic anti-Semitic trope.”