Big tech PR in 2020
Tech PR isn’t what it used to be. These days, big tech companies use tactics akin to governments to control the narrative around their activities.
The Columbia Journalism Review has an interesting piece
about Facebook’s approach to journalists over the past few years:
In conversations with more than fifteen journalists and industry observers, I tried to understand what it is like to cover Facebook. What I found was troublesome: operating with the secrecy of an intelligence agency and the authority of a state government, Facebook has arrogated to itself vast powers while enjoying, until recently, limited journalistic scrutiny.
Among the tactics described or alleged:
- Straight-up lying to reporters, on the record
- Sending a pre-written, pro-Facebook opinion piece to a journalist in the hope they would run it under their own name
- Being “difficult, even combative” to journalists
The fact not mentioned in the article though, is that all big tech companies are like this to some degree. As they’ve become — by necessity, due to their size and impact on the world — political entities, they’ve moved beyond giving cuddly advance briefings to reporters about cool new apps and features, to having to be much more careful about what they say, and how they say it.
And journalists have stopped lapping up the universally pro-tech optimism of a decade ago. They look for the problems behind the scenes. Companies like Facebook have had to become more defensive, and perhaps less trusting of journalists.
It’s healthy that there is a conflict between the press and these companies, but that doesn’t excuse straight-up lying or acting in bad faith to a reporter just trying to do their job.
One of the best examples of Silicon Valley simply not understanding journalism comes from this tweet I saw this morning, reporting on a conversation in elite voice-chat app Clubhouse: