This week, former Facebook employee Frances Haugen has blown the whistle on the company knowingly continuing to allow its social media platforms to harm their users. Her evidence has been damning, and Facebook’s response has been very similar to Big Tobacco’s response to years of critical coverage.

To get up to speed on this week’s events have a listen to the following podcast from the ABC.

The Signal – Why Facebook’s in trouble again

Historically, Big Tobacco has been so addicted to making profits from addictive products that are harmful to their users, that using character assassination, misinformation, and redirection became their standard communication strategies.

As Facebook has responded to Frances Haugen’s revelations, it is becoming clear that the company no longer intends to give half apologies and vague promises concerned with doing better, but that Facebook now intends to go hard and go early, just like Big Tobacco.

I guess there are a number of PR firms who have a lot of experience of shielding deliberate bad behaviour, and I am sure that Facebook has already had several representatives knocking at their doors to buy them time to make a lot more money, before the inevitable pressure of public outrage and evidence has a belated positive impact.

Even though we are going to have to watch Facebook’s tawdry display, there is one obvious bright spot to acknowledge in this swirling media maelstrom: Frances Haugen’s use of media to present her evidence in a calm and credible manner has been superb.

One of the wonderful things about studying Strategic Communication this year is that I no longer have to wonder what is going on in the media, where it comes from, or how it works. I now appreciate how and what Facebook has learned from Big Tobacco, but I also can understand how good Frances Haugen’s media advice and strategy is.

Frances Haugen’s use of credible television and heavy weight print media before giving evidence to Congress reads very much like one of Michael S. Sitrick’s case studies from his book, The Fixer. Please have a look at the below interview to gain an appreciation of what an amazing communications’ professional can achieve.

Litigator’s Corner – An Interview with Michael S. Sitrick – Strategic Use of Communication for Lawyers, by Beverly Hills Bar Association

It makes me very happy that, in this case, the whistle blower has the superior communication advice and strategy, and that Facebook is relying on a negative communication strategy that has a definite use by date. Facebook might be able to continue to make money, but it won’t be able to rebuild whatever is left of its reputation with its current media strategy.

The well-being of users and reputation are central to a massive amount of communications literature and practice, so it is telling when a company puts income above both things.

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