A “hatchet man” spokesman for Facebook is making enemies out of politicians and reporters alike as the corporate takes warmth in Washington — and insiders inform The Post he’s doing it to please Mark Zuckerberg.
This week alone, Facebook coverage communications director Andy Stone — a 40-year-old communications veteran who labored for former Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer and John Kerry — has questioned the credibility of whistleblower Frances Haugen, confronted the ire of Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and tussled with reporters, accusing them of trashing the corporate with “misleading” tales.
Insiders inform The Post that the true function of Stone’s caustic comms technique is to please Zuckerberg and chief working officer Sheryl Sandberg — even when which means angering the politicians who need to regulate Facebook and the reporters who cowl it.
“The target audience is Mark and Sheryl and Facebook employees,” stated a former Facebook worker who labored with Stone. “It doesn’t really matter if reporters or the general public like them.”
During previous crises just like the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook has performed good, shopping for apologetic full-page newspaper ads and sending Zuckerberg and Sandberg to testify earlier than Congress. This time, the corporate’s prime brass despatched lower-ranking executives like safety chief Antigone Davis to take the warmth from Congress — and has apparently given Stone free rein to tussle with Facebook critics.
“The traditional corporate PR playbook says that the company apologizes, offers to be part of the solution and generally finds ways to make Congress happy,” the previous Facebook worker stated. “Facebook is beyond that right now.”
Facebook and Stone, who joined the corporate in 2014, didn’t reply to requests for remark.
The former Facebook worker stated that, as well as to Zuckerberg and Sandberg, Stone’s hardline stance is directed at Joel Kaplan, a former President George W. Bush staffer and lobbyist who now works as Facebook’s DC-based international public coverage chief.
Stone’s combativeness can also be possible to please software program engineers at Facebook, who the previous worker stated are extra possible to assist preventing again in opposition to politicians and journalists who they consider deal with the corporate unfairly.
“Every time one of these news cycles starts … some employees are concerned about what they read and other employees, often on the engineering side, want Facebook to be more aggressive and push back. So that’s the audience that Andy and the communications team are playing to right now,” the previous worker stated.
While Haugen was testifying in entrance of a Senate subcommittee on Tuesday, Stone adopted alongside and tried to downplay her credibility.
“Just pointing out the fact that @FrancesHaugen did not work on child safety or Instagram or research these issues and has no direct knowledge of the topic from her work at Facebook,” Stone tweeted whereas Haugen was nonetheless testifying.
The former Facebook worker known as that response “sexist and terrible.” Blackburn, the highest-ranking Republican on the subcommittee, was additionally not amused.
“If Facebook wants to discuss its targeting of children, come forward and testify,” Blackburn wrote in response to Stone.
Stone has additionally accused CBS’s “60 Minutes,” which ran an interview with Haugen on Sunday, of utilizing “select company materials to tell a misleading story.”
A comms government who works with large tech firms aside from Facebook additionally stated Stone’s technique has clearly been to please the corporate’s management — even when which means digging the corporate right into a deeper gap on Capitol Hill.
“If you’re not going to change the public’s opinion with nuanced arguments and fully contextualizing these facts, either because the facts are so bad or that’s just not going to happen, then maybe the best move at this point is to show your bosses you’re fighting for them,” the manager stated. “What you’re doing is to keep your bosses from going completely insane.”
Carole Cadwalladr, a journalist for the Guardian who broke the Cambridge Analytica story, told Input she had clashed with Stone lengthy earlier than he emerged as Facebook’s chief critic of Haugen.
Cadwalladr alleged Stone used “deliberate deceptions regarding Cambridge Analytica and repeatedly trolled me.”
“It was just in no way appropriate for the corporate PR of a trillion-dollar company to behave like that toward a journalist,” added Cadwalladr.