Facebook has been messing up a lot lately, but the advertising giant’s most recent misstep still managed to surprise in that it took place in a rather unexpected venue: Twitter.
Following news that Facebook allowed phone manufacturers to access the data of some users’ Facebook friends without explicit consent, whoever runs the company’s Twitter account rushed to the service to defend the practice. In the process, the social media team forgot what has over the years become a kind of core internet rule: Never tweet.
In doing so, they teed up the denizens of Twitter to do what they do best: Dunk on brands.
Things started off simply enough, with the @Facebook account replying to one of the New York Times reporters, Nick Confessore — who broke the story in question — with a standard PR-soaked attempt at deescalation.
That wasn’t the end of it. The account began disputing the claims made in the Times story shortly after it was picked up by Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.
Shockingly, some online had trouble believing this denial.
This is a lie, but ok.
— Danny Etling’s HOF Jacket (@Patskrieg) June 4, 2018
In search of a little backup, Facebook then swerved in a direction that can perhaps only be explained by not understanding how Twitter works. It asked one of the company’s sharpest critics, Zeynep Tufekci, to come to its defense.
That went about as well as you or I — but not apparently Facebook’s public relations team — would expect.
Part of giving people control over their data means enabling them to take their information with them on other services (open platforms vs walled gardens). So you can get your Facebook on B’berry or your Gmail on iPhone. What do you feel is different with these FB integrations?
— Facebook (@facebook) June 4, 2018
Facebook cannot simultaneously aspire to be the connective social fabric online (the platform era!) and have this business model which misaligns its interests with users’ and be this muddled about privacy and sharing—and not have us wary of what happens with our data.
— zeynep tufekci (@zeynep) June 4, 2018
Which, in case you didn’t catch it, is an academic’s polite way of telling a company to get stuffed.
Some of the other replies were, shall we say, less charitable.
Too late, already deleted my account ya sketchbags.
— Opinion Alert! (@micky_myers) June 5, 2018
But @Facebook wasn’t the only one attempting to play in the Twitter sandbox. Facebook CSO Alex Stamos jumped into the conversation, recycling an official Facebook line and beefing with the Times’s deputy investigations editor Gabriel Dance in the process.
I still haven’t gotten an answer.
When I add Gmail to https://t.co/Vewh2MT7fI on iOS, that data is all available to Apple’s code and a bunch of it ends up in iCloud. I can’t prevent my Mom, who has my data, from using https://t.co/Vewh2MT7fI. Is that a privacy violation?
— Alex Stamos (@alexstamos) June 4, 2018
Stamos didn’t stop there. He too went on an ill-advised tweet storm that garnered a sharp rebuke from the FTC’s former chief technologist Ashkan Soltani.
When all is said and done with regard to the latest Facebook dustup, both the company in general and Stamos in particular are left looking worse than when they started.
If only they had remembered that one rule. Never, ever, ever tweet.