Facebook’s Andy Stone makes enemies to please Mark Zuckerberg: Insiders
A spokesperson for Facebook’s “ax man” is making enemies of politicians and journalists as the company heats up in Washington – and insiders tell the Post he’s doing it to please Mark Zuckerberg.
Just this week, Facebook’s director of political communications Andy Stone, a 40-year-old communications veteran who worked for former Democratic Senators Barbara Boxer and John Kerry, questioned the credibility of whistleblower Frances Haugen, faced the wrath of Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and fought with reporters, accusing them of trashing the business with “deceptive” stories.
Insiders tell the Post that the real purpose of Stone’s caustic communications strategy is to please Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg – even if that means angering politicians who want to regulate Facebook and the journalists who cover it. .
“The target audience is Mark and Sheryl and the Facebook employees,” said a former Facebook employee who worked with Stone. “It doesn’t matter if journalists or the general public like them. “
In past crises like the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook has done well, buying pages full of excuses newspaper ads and send Zuckerberg and Sandberg to testify before Congress. This time around, the company’s top brass sent lower executives like Security Chief Antigone Davis to take the heat of Congress – and apparently gave Stone carte blanche to fight Facebook critics.
“The traditional corporate public relations playbook says the company apologizes, offers to be part of the solution, and generally finds ways to make Congress happy,” the former Facebook employee said. “Facebook is beyond that right now.”
Facebook and Stone, who joined the company in 2014, did not respond to requests for comment.
The former Facebook employee said that in addition to Zuckerberg and Sandberg, Stone’s hard-line stance targeted Joel Kaplan, a former staff member and lobbyist for President George W. Bush who now works as head of global public policy. from Facebook in Washington.
Stone’s combativeness is also likely to appeal to Facebook’s software engineers, who the former employee says are more likely to support the retaliation against politicians and journalists who they say treat the company unfairly.
“Every time one of these news cycles starts… some employees are concerned about what they’re reading and other employees, often on the engineering side, want Facebook to be more aggressive and push back. So that’s the audience that Andy and the communications team are playing right now, ”said the former employee.
As Haugen testified before a Senate subcommittee on Tuesday, Stone followed suit and tried to downplay his credibility.
“I’m just pointing out that @FrancesHaugen hasn’t worked on child safety or Instagram or researched these issues and has no direct knowledge of the subject matter of his work on Facebook,” Stone tweeted as Haugen was still testifying.
The former Facebook employee called the response “sexist and terrible.” Blackburn, the highest-ranking Republican on the subcommittee, was not amused either.
“If Facebook wants to discuss its targeting of children, come and testify” Blackburn wrote in response to Stone.
Stone also accused CBS’s “60 Minutes”, which aired an interview with Haugen on Sunday, of using “selected company materials to tell a deceptive story.”
A communications manager who works with large tech companies other than Facebook also said Stone’s strategy is clearly to please the leadership of the company – even if that means digging the company into a deeper hole on Capitol Hill.
“If you’re not going to change public opinion with nuanced arguments and fully contextualizing those facts, either because the facts are so bad or because it just won’t happen, then maybe the best thing to do at this point is to show your bosses that you are fighting for them, ”the executive said. “What you’re doing is keeping your bosses from going completely crazy.”
Carole Cadwalladr, a Guardian reporter who revealed the Cambridge Analytica story, told Input she clashed with Stone long before he became Facebook’s main critic of Haugen.
Cadwalladr alleged that Stone used “willful deceptions regarding Cambridge Analytica and repeatedly trolled me.”
“It just wasn’t appropriate for the PR of a trillion dollar company to behave like that towards a reporter,” Cadwalladr added.