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This article was published on May 12, 2011

Facebook hired a PR agency to dish the dirt on Google. But it backfired.

Facebook hired a PR agency to dish the dirt on Google. But it backfired.

The battle for digital supremacy has taken a rather ugly turn, as news emerges that Facebook hired a PR agency on the sly…specifically to plant negative stories about Google.

Dan Lyons from The Daily Beast revealed this tantalising little tidbit earlier today, and it looks like the negative coverage Facebook was seeking to gain for its arch nemesis has been caught in a gale and thrown straight back at them.

Top PR firm Burson-Marsteller was hired to pitch negative stories about the search engine giant to newspapers. Journalists were apparently encouraged to investigate Google’s privacy surrounding Gmail’s Social Circle, which Burson-Marsteller claimed violates federal fair trade rules and invades the privacy of millions of users.

When the PR firm offered to help a top tech-blogger called Chris Soghoian produce an anti-Google feature, Soghoian turned it down and instead posted the emails he had received. And USA Today rounded on the PR firm’s ‘whisper campaign’ too, producing this article earlier in the week.

As speculation mounted as to whose money was behind the operation, with Microsoft and Apple always likely candidates, it transpires that Facebook was actually responsible.

A Facebook spokesman confirmed that the social networking site had been behind the whole operation, stating it believed Google was up to no-good in the social sphere that raised serious privacy concerns. But the second reason it gave, was that Google was attempting to use Facebook’s data in its own social networking platform, Social Circle.

This is quite an incredible turn of events, and one that has backfired drastically on Facebook. But the perplexing thing is Facebook really shouldn’t need to resort to these type of mud-slinging tactics, it’s normally desperate companies on the decline that get involved in these sort of shenanigans.

Hopefully Google won’t retaliate, as this could get really silly. But one senses that Facebook is a little anxious about Google’s endeavours, and it feels it may have a genuine contender to its global dominance in the social sphere. Google wins this round.

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