Facebook vehemently denies report that its head of news told publishers that without its help, 'I'll be holding your hands with your dying ­business like in a hospice'

Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)
  • Facebook has denied a report that its head of news partnerships said Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t care about publishers.
  • A report from The Australian alleged that Campbell Brown made the remarks in a recent off-the-record meeting with media executives.
  • But the Silicon Valley giant has said the alleged quotes are “not accurate” and “have been taken out of context.”

Facebook is strongly disputing a report that alleges its head of news partnerships Campbell Brown privately said that CEO Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t care about news publishers.

The Australian has published a story about a 4-hour off-the-record meeting between Brown and Australian media executives, in which it reports – citing five anonymous sources present allegedly at the meeting – that she said: “Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t care about publishers but is giving me a lot of leeway and concessions to make these changes.”

According to The Australian’s report, Brown added: “We will help you revitalise journalism … in a few years the reverse looks like I’ll be holding your hands with your dying ­business like in a hospice.”

Facebook is pushing back on the report, saying the quotes are “not accurate” and “have been taken out of context.”

In a statement given to Business Insider by a Facebook spokesperson, Brown said: “These quotes are simply not accurate and don’t reflect the discussion we had in the meeting. We know there’s much more to do, but our goal at Facebook – what the team works on every day with publishers and reporters around the world – is to help journalism succeed and thrive, both on our platform and off. That means a new focus on building sustainable business models, and that’s what the discussion was about.”

Facebook head of news Campbell BrownGetty/Michael LoccisanoCampbell Brown speaks onstage at the Peabody-Facebook Futures Of Media Awards at Hotel Eventi on May 19, 2017 in New York City.

In an additional statement, Facebook Australia and New Zealand’s head of communications Antonia Sanda said: “These comments are inaccurate and have been taken out of context. We are disappointed that our attempt to engage in open and constructive dialogue with publishers has been misconstrued in this way.”

Facebook and the media industry have had an increasingly strained relationship in recent years. The social network has grown to become a huge source of traffic for many publications, while also (alongside Google) gobbling up ever-larger shares of advertisers’ budgets.

And in response to its recent scandals, the social network has cut back on the volume of news users see in favour of more personal content – further piling the pressure on struggling publishers.

The Australian reports that there may be a recording of the meeting, though it is not yet public. “When contacted about the comments … Facebook indicated the meeting was recorded, but declined to release a full recording of the meeting,” the article reads.

The Australian’s media editor Darren Davidson, the writer of the article, did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.

Campbell Brown is a veteran of CNN and NBC News, and when she was hired away by Facebook in January 2017 she said she would be “help[ing] news organisations and journalists work more closely and more effectively with Facebook.”

Do you know what was said at the meeting? Got a tip? Contact this reporter via Signal or WhatsApp at +1 (650) 636-6268 using a non-work phone, email at [email protected], WeChat at robaeprice, or Twitter DM at @robaeprice. You can also contact Business Insider securely via SecureDrop.

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