In appointing ex-Uber PR executive Rachel Whetstone as their VP of communications Facebook once again shows itself to be out of touch with what the future requires
To the majority of the public Facebook is simply a social network where they share their lives with their friends, but, in fact, this for-profit business with revenues of £20.6 billion in 2016 is anything but cuddly.
A truly uncommunicative operation when dealing with its very own users – even police officers complained to The Steeple Times that it takes them three months to get the simplest of responses when they request information in the context of criminal investigations – Facebook announced Tuesday the appointment of Rachel Whetstone as its vice president of communications of its Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp products.
In appointing this “tough talker,” the firm shows its sheer arrogance and lack of realisation that it ought to change before change is forced upon it. Undoubtedly ultra-connected, Whetstone – a woman whose past form has included working for the Conservative Party, an affair with Lord Astor (step-father of Samantha Cameron) and a position at Google – was most recently vice president of policy and communications at Uber and dealt with the controversial firm’s response to a class action lawsuit from drivers seeking to be classified as employees.
Whetstone, a close associate and friend of both David Cameron and George Osborne, however, also represents an era in politics when “two posh boys who [didn’t] know the price of milk, two arrogant posh boys who show no remorse, no contrition, and no passion to want to understand the lives of others” (according to fellow Tory MP Nadine Dorries) ran Britain. Her chums gave us a divisive referendum that has split the nation and the result of her close associates’ coalition of chaos is now a country in the “weak and wobbly” hands of the ‘Wheat Field Wanderer’ and the dangerous DUP. Thus, in choosing such people as this Bristol educated granddaughter of propagandist Sir Antony Fisher, Facebook – established 2004 – hark back to the ‘Cameroonian’ days when they operated as freely as they wished.
This social network, with its staggering 2 billion active monthly users as of June 2017, has recently faced scandals connected to fake news and trending topics, excluding ethnic minorities from viewing adverts and the limited tax it pays on its £4.97 billion worldwide profits. Here is a firm operating in a sector that, in 2016, caused even Theresa May to comment: “If you’re … an international company that treats tax laws as an optional extra … I’m putting you on warning. This can’t go on any more” and here is an operation that ignores virtually every “abuse report” it receives from its users. It is anything but social, a land where trolling is rife and a domain that seems to simply operate by the rule of “anything goes.”
Facebook may believe bringing in Whetstone will help them talk their way out of future troubles, but now, as we join those calling for reform of that that regulates them, the outdated Communications Act (2003), they may have to come to think again.