Facebook hired PR firm to discredit Google, reveals leaked correspondence

Thursday, May 12, 2011 

Facebook hired a public relations firm to systematically discredit Google by paying two journalists to plant negative pieces in U.S. newspapers, leaked correspondence discloses. The new revelations are likely to increase tension between the two companies, which are already fierce rivals.

The social network has confirmed the validity of the leaked emails, seen by Wikinews, which suggest executives at the social networking giant hired Burson-Marsteller, a high profile PR and communications firm, to discredit Social Circle, a rival website run by Google. Burson-Marsteller then recruited two journalists — Jim Goldman and John Mercurio — to push editors at The Washington Post and USA Today to publish editorials criticising Social Circle over its privacy settings. The story was exposed after Burson-Marsteller approached a blogger to publish the propaganda, but the blogger posted the correspondence online.

Burson-Marsteller has been forced to apologize for taking on Facebook as a client, admitting the orders to discredit Google violated company policy. “The assignment on those terms should have been declined,” a spokesperson said. The revelations are likely to be incredibly damaging for the firm, who have represented a number of controversial clients in the past. Facebook, however, said the allegations against Google were valid, insisting there were genuine privacy concerns with Social Circle. Google has declined to comment on the issue.

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