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Facebook admits to hiring PR firm to target Google

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JEREMY HOBSON: Facebook is trying to save face this morning after it was forced to admit it secretly hired a PR company to go after Google.

Marketplace's David Gura is covering this story for us and he joins us now live with the details. Good morning, David.

DAVID GURA: Good morning Jeremy.

HOBSON: So, companies use PR firms all the time. What's the big deal? What's different here?

GURA: Well, Facebook hired Burson-Marsteller, that's an old PR firm based in New York, to start what was, essentially a whisper campaign against Google. Burson pitched stories to newspapers and websites saying Google was disregarding users' privacy. But they never told journalists that Facebook was paying them to do that. Finally, one blogger got suspicious. He asked who the PR firm was working for. He posted emails from them online. Facebook was forced to say what they'd done. They said didn't authorize or intend a smear campaign. they just wanted "third parties to verify" what they say Google was doing.

HOBSON: OK so that's what Facebook says. But David, why has this rivalry gotten so vicious, some would say.

GURA: Well, they're fighting over talent, they're fighting over advertising. We're talking about an online ad market that's in the tens of billions of dollars. But it's also a battle for public perception. Plenty of Facebook users have criticized the company for changing its privacy settings. Google is trying again to do more with social networking. Amid that, Facebook seems to have felt vulnerable. So Jeremy as you said the vicious Silicon Valley rivalry continues.

HOBSON: Marketplace's David Gura joining us live. David, thanks.

GURA: Thank you.

About the author

David Gura is a reporter for Marketplace, based in the Washington, D.C. bureau.

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