Facebook accused journalists of coordinating with a public relations team to promote leaked documents the company says mischaracterize its business practices on Monday.
“Right now 30+ journalists are finishing up a coordinated series of articles based on thousands of pages of leaked documents,” Facebook Vice President of Communications John Pinette tweeted on Monday. “We hear that to get the docs, outlets had to agree to the conditions and a schedule laid down by the PR team that worked on earlier leaked docs.”
The practice of asking journalists to agree to publish their stories at a certain time is known as a press embargo, and it is a standard practice in the public relations industry. Newsrooms have also worked together during investigations, such as in the case of the investigation into Israeli spyware firm NSO Group in July.
While Pinette did not name the specific public relations firm he alleged was working with journalists to promote the leaked documents, The Washington Free Beacon reported earlier this month that consulting firm Bryson Gillette, headed by Democratic operative Bill Burton, worked with Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen in relation to her revelations. Burton founded Democratic political action committee Priorities USA Action, and he served on the board of the non-profit Center for Human Technology.
Haugen herself is a Democratic donor, contributing money to several candidates including now-Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.
Pinette said there was an “orchestrated ‘gotcha’ campaign” by news organizations to mischaracterize Facebook’s internal documents and business practices.
“A curated selection out of millions of documents at Facebook can in no way be used to draw fair conclusions about us,” Pinette said. “Internally, we share work in progress and debate options. Not every suggestion stands up to the scrutiny we must apply to decisions affecting so many people.”
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