The blitz of bad PR for Facebook is not slowing down. Will the repercussions cause a shake-up at the very top of the company? Kara Swisher and Scott Galloway discuss on the latest Pivot podcast.
Kara Swisher: This has been a rough week for Facebook. On Monday, a consortium of publishers rolled out new stories based on Frances Haugen’s documents. There’s new reporting on Facebook’s failures to police content in India, which I think is much more important than almost any of these other stories, as well as its relationship with lobbyists. Nick Clegg told employees to expect “more bad headlines in the coming days.” John Pinette, who you like quite a bit — I like John myself — had said it was some sort of conspiracy, which was kind of ridiculous for the group most responsible for conspiracy theories.
Scott Galloway: He was horrified that it was the people who were spreading misinformation, right? Okay. Talk about the mother of all kettles calling something black.
Swisher: Yeah, exactly. So Ben Smith wrote a pretty good story on the problems with this consortium. I have a problem with the consortium.
Galloway: Say more. Why do you have a problem with it?
Swisher: Because you get cooked by your source. The source seems to be in full control, and I just feel like it tarnishes her if it looks like it’s cooked, even if it’s not. And this idea of the press cooperating like this …
She should just give them individually to each one. I’m not a big fan of the consortia, although it has worked with the Panama Papers. But this is a little different. It feels funny. I don’t know why. I feel like she’s more controlling of the story than I like. I just would like the documents to speak for themselves. There’s just something — read Ben Smith’s column on this. I think I have his point of view.
Galloway: Because as someone who’s further from this, I love it. I see when Facebook tries to delay and obfuscate and downplay the incredible damage they do to the commonwealth and society at large, they’re very coordinated, very methodical. Their 900-person PR communications, their billions of dollars, their law firms all act in concert with one another. And what’s been really impressive and just interesting about the whistleblower thing is how coordinated it is. All right, let’s go on national TV. Then we hit Congress. Then we have a website. It’s bankrolled by another billionaire. We’re going to get a consortium of journalists together and coordinate the releases. Quite frankly, they’re fighting fire with fire. Facebook has benefited from a disorganized, chaotic, atomized competitive set.
Swisher: This is a fair analysis.
Galloway: The enemy is saying, Let’s bring a fraction of the coordination and Machiavelli to this. Because it is really cooked. I mean, none of this is being done by accident. But I’m like, Finally. They have been fighting Facebook panzer tanks on horseback, and they decided to start producing their own tanks.
Swisher: I see that point. I just feel like Facebook will grab anything to take advantage of. I just think anything that gives Facebook an in is problematic for me. If you don’t look as clean as possible, they take advantage of that. And I think that they’re very clever. But I agree with you. It requires persistent and consistent reporting on this stuff and not just her documents — you need others to also give up some documents.
You know, at some point, I do think — and I’m going to be writing about this — I do think it’s the end for Mark Zuckerberg. I think he’s got to step down as CEO or move himself upwards.
Galloway: Yeah. Or the new thing. I do think this is rolling in a way … the penny must be dropping because they’re becoming more aggressive in a way that is not the way they usually react. Mark just can’t just be quiet for a little bit because the next time this comes up, the board will certainly be blamed, and it will come up again if they don’t do something significant.
Pivot is produced by Lara Naaman, Evan Engel, and Taylor Griffin.
This transcript has been edited for length and clarity.