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Facebook caught starting smear campaign about Google

Facebook was caught red handed using a PR firm to try to spread negative news stories about Google through the mainstream press.

Facebook escalates rivalry with Google: The intense rivalry between Facebook and Google just got juicier as characters behind the latest Silicon Valley drama evoked talk of smear campaigns, secret clients and even Richard Nixon. It took a once-secret blogger, known as Fake Steve Jobs, to help sort it all out.

Paul Sakuma/AP

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The intense rivalry between Facebook and Google just got juicier.

In a twist seemingly out of a Hollywood thriller, Facebook hired a prominent public relations firm to try to plant stories harshly criticizing Google's privacy practices in leading news outlets. The efforts backfired when the firm approached a blogger who not only declined the assignment, but also went public with the offer.

The latest Silicon Valley drama has also evoked chatter of smear campaigns, secrecy and even Richard Nixon. It took the once-secret blogger known as Fake Steve Jobs to help sort it all out.

One lesson: If you're going to write an incriminating email, don't. Pick up the phone instead.

Here's another:

"If you are out there planting negative stories, you are feeding the conflict," said Larry L. Smith, president of the Institute for Crisis Management, a public relations company. "When they get in a shoving match, whoever is perceived by the public to be the bully loses in the public eye."

Rather than getting news outlets to circulate stories about privacy problems facing Google, Facebook found itself having to answer questions about why it wanted to maintain secrecy.

Facebook said it never authorized or intended to run any smear campaign against Google. Rather, the company said it hired Burson-Marsteller to prompt investigations into how a new Google service called Social Circle collects and uses data about people. In a statement, Facebook said it should have made it clear that it was behind the efforts.

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