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Big Revolution - Big tech PR in 2020

Welcome to Thursday's newsletter. Enjoy! — Martin from Big Revolution
July 2 · Issue #761 · View online
Big Revolution
Welcome to Thursday’s newsletter. Enjoy!
— Martin from Big Revolution

Big things you need to know today
  • Google has stymied plans by European publishers to stop it grabbing data about their readers. The company says if any publishers that go ahead “it will cut off publishers from a lucrative flow of ads,” Reuters reports. Google says its behaviour is all above board and related to data protection laws.
  • Mark Zuckerberg is reportedly playing it cool about the Facebook ad boycott, telling staff he expects advertisers to return “soon enough,” according to The Information [paywalled]. More than 400 brands have now said they will avoid advertising on Facebook for the duration of this month.
  • Facebook is shutting down its TikTok-like app Lasso. The app was only available in certain countries across the American continents, and its closure comes as the company is trying to make a success of another TikTok challenger, Instagram’s Reels.
The big thought
Credit: NeONBRAND on Unsplash
Credit: NeONBRAND on Unsplash
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:
fake name
Someone on Clubhouse just said “why does press have a right to investigate private companies, let the market decide, I don’t understand who gives them that right”
With attitudes like that, life isn’t going to get any easier for reporters any time soon.
One big read
The Amazon Effect Is Making Customer Service Reps’ Lives Hell The Amazon Effect Is Making Customer Service Reps’ Lives Hell
The strain being felt by online retailers from an increasingly demanding public. “People expect Amazon-speed fulfillment from smaller retailers, which are working with already limited resources in the middle of a pandemic.”
That’s all for today...
Back tomorrow with more.
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