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Meta’s PR team struggles amid Facebook child safety lawsuit

"PR Struggles"
“PR Struggles”

September 2021 saw turmoil within Meta’s PR team amid a lawsuit exposing Facebook’s mishandling of issues relating to child safety. Text messages between team members revealed a leadership crisis and differing views on company policy.

Executives were divided over allegations regarding the harmful effects of Facebook’s algorithms on young users. A part of the team leaned towards company transparency and accountability, while others defended the corporation’s actions. There was heightened tension due to legal proceedings.

PR strategies concerning public backlash became a primary focus. Guided by CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the PR team grappled with controlling his response to a negative article published in The New York Times about Facebook’s Project Amplify.

Despite the criticism by NYT, the project involved Zuckerberg releasing positive content aimed at improving his image.

Divisions and dilemmas in Meta’s PR team

However, not all data was divulged, resulting in lingering questions. As scrutiny from various stakeholders increased, it lead to an uncertain future for the project, putting Meta’s reputation at risk.

Zuckerberg’s first reaction was to publicly challenge the article. A flurry of text communications within his PR team suggested a more diplomatic response — emphasizing clarification rather than attacking the newspaper. This strategy aimed at potentially mitigating backlash and preserving Zuckerberg’s credibility.

Portions of these court documents, unveiled by Journalist Ryan Mac, shed light on the tumultuous internal affairs within Zuckerberg’s PR team. Disclosed views included Tucker Bounds suggesting Zuckerberg abstain from posting a response, and John Pinette proposing a light-hearted response.

Nick Clegg, Meta’s head of public policy, was against any light-hearted posts by Zuckerberg, illustrating a team in disagreement and struggling to guide their CEO’s conduct. These revelations present an image of a team carefully considering every public utterance due to their potential impacts.

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