A Facebook executive has issued a sinister warning to media companies that don’t cooperate with the social network, telling them their “dying business” will end up in a hospice.
Campbell Brown, a former CNN anchor who now works as Facebook’s head of news, told Australian news executives that Facebook will help them “revitalise journalism”, before adding, “the reverse looks like I’ll be holding your hands with your dying business like in a hospice.”
Ms Brown also said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, “doesn’t care about publishers but us giving me a lot of leeway and concessions to make these changes.” Facebook has denied the comments.
The comments, first reported by The Australian, came from an off-the-record meeting on Tuesday in Sydney, with five attendees have corroborated the comments. Ms Brown personally denied the comments and the social network has claimed to have a transcript of the four-hour meeting but it is yet to release it and did not immediately respond to a request to see it.
“These quotes are simply not accurate and don’t reflect the discussion we had in the meeting,” Ms Brown said in a statement.
“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.”
A Facebook spokesperson added: “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 has had a fractured relationship with media organisations in recent months, most notably when the social network threatened to sue the Guardian Media Group ahead of the publication printing revelations from a Cambridge Analytica whistleblower.
Ms Brown subsequently said it was “not our wisest move,” adding: “If it were me I would have probably not threatened to sue the Guardian.”
Media organisations have also been affected by Facebook’s decision to promote posts by users’ friends and family members over news, which has caused some outlets to lose significant amounts of traffic to their online platforms.
“We are not interested in talking to you about your traffic and referrals anymore. That is the old world and there is no going back – Mark wouldn’t agree to this,” Ms Brown said during the Tuesday meeting.