LONG BEACH – The City of Long Beach has developed a system to connect providers with personal protective equipment (PPE), as well as a way for people to donate goods and services and access to facial coverings through an online exchange platform.
Request for Medical PPE:
Various qualifying organizations in need of PPE, including healthcare facilities, medical providers, shelters, adult day care and long-term care facilities, may request supplies via the City’s longbeach.gov/COVID19 website, under “Resources for Healthcare Providers.”
Equipment Donations to the City:
To streamline and manage the donations and offers of assistance to the City of Long Beach, the City also has developed an online form at, http://longbeach.gov/health/diseases-and-condition/information-on/coronavirus/help/
The new form can be completed by local businesses and community volunteers interested in providing assistance.
The form will help the City organize donation offers such as business facility use, transportation and delivery services and personal protective equipment. Additionally, donations of food and hygiene kits for persons experiencing homelessness and offers of volunteer services in a variety of skill areas are captured by the form. All information provided is electronically safeguarded for privacy and reviewed to determine the best match with City operational needs.
Creation of an Online Exchange for Facial Coverings:
Face masks and coverings for an individual’s personal use can be purchased through a marketplace created by the Long Beach Post in partnership with the City of Long Beach. Mask makers and businesses can register via the Vendor Registration form. https://shop.lbpost.com/vendor-registration
City of Long Beach Develops System to Connect Providers to Personal Protective Equipment and an Online Exchange Platform for Facial Coverings
LONG BEACH – The City of Long Beach has developed a system to connect providers with personal protective equipment (PPE), as well as a way for people to donate goods and services and access to facial coverings through an online exchange platform.
As part of CSPG’s programming, Activist, Artists, and Sisters: Posters on Women Fighting for Justice, artist Ernesto Vazquez hosted a stencil workshop. Watch the recording and make your own stencils at home with a few basic supplies. Thank you Ernesto for hosting a great workshop that any can participate in. You can view our latest exhibition online here. Visit Ernesto’s website to learn more about his work in his community and his art. The video of the workshop and list of materials needed is below.
Ernesto Vazquez will lead participants in creating a multicolored design without aerosol spray paint or screen printing equipment. Using acrylic paints and a sponge, participants will apply paint to go through their paper stencil designs to the bottom paper or canvas creating a painted image of the shape they are stenciling. Various colors create depth and a more intriguing piece when finished. The more colors applied the more intricate the design. For this workshop, we will be creating a 3 color stencil design with the concept of Light, Medium, Dark to overlay the colors with the darkest color on top.
• Thick Bristol Paper where the paint will be applied.
• Thin paper for the stencils(same size as the bristol paper.
• Scissors to cut the design of stencils.
• Pencil to design the artwork.
• Drafting tape, to hold Bristol and stencil paper in place.
• Sponge, as the applicator of paint for the stencils (dish washing sponge works fine).
• Paints; acrylic or gouache preferred.
• Container with Water(if needed to dilute paint)
• Paper towels or cloth towels for clean up
Governor Newsom Launches “Wear a Mask” Public Awareness Campaign in Response to Surge in COVID-19 Cases
Campaign will launch ahead of the Fourth of July weekend in English and Spanish
SACRAMENTO — As COVID-19 cases rise throughout the state and in advance of the Fourth of July weekend, Gov. Gavin Newsom July 2, announced the “Wear A Mask” public awareness campaign encouraging Californians to use face coverings – one of the best ways people can protect themselves and others from the virus. The campaign is taking an aggressive approach to slowing the spread of COVID-19, which will save lives and allow the state to reopen the economy. The campaign, which will continue until at least the end of the year, will kick off in English and Spanish and then expand into other languages later this month.
“We all have a responsibility to slow the spread. It is imperative – and required – that Californians protect each other by wearing masks and practicing physical distancing when in public so we can fully reopen our economy,” said Governor Newsom. “We all need to stand up, be leaders, show we care and get this done.”
The campaign will begin with a statewide push ahead of the holiday weekend. Broadcast and radio PSAs are being distributed in English and Spanish with local ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, Univision, Telemundo, Ethnic Media Services, and iHeart Media affiliates. Billboards and outdoor advertisements are visible statewide in both English and Spanish. The campaign includes a variety of shareable social media content with key messages on why and how to wear a mask.
In the coming weeks, the campaign increasingly will focus on those who have been disproportionately harmed by this pandemic, particularly California’s Black and Latinx communities. Messages will be translated into seven languages and delivered by trusted messengers. In addition, the Listos California emergency preparedness campaign will be supporting paid media efforts and bolstering community engagement efforts.
The San Pedro and Wilmington A Bridge Home shelters will open next week. Each shelter will house 100 pre-selected adults who are experiencing homelessness. Due to physical distancing and restrictions on gatherings, next week’s grand opening will be live-streamed only.
Phase out School Police
Replace with mental health counselors, nurses and programs providing behavioral counseling.
Tyler Chavez-Feipel: UTLA Chair at San Pedro High School
Art Almeida: San Pedro Bay Historical Society, IWW member
San Pedro Neighbors for Peace & Justice
Time: 10 a.m. to 12 p.m July 4
Location: Virtual LIBERTY HILL Meeting on zoom –
For more info please call 310-567-3332
LOS ANGELES—The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, June 23, passed a motion by Supervisor Janice Hahn aimed at improving the public’s access to alternative crisis response teams when armed law enforcement may not be appropriate.
While there are instances when law enforcement officers are the most appropriate response to a call for help, there are also many scenarios when they are not. For example, calls for health and human services crises related to mental health, substance abuse, physical health, or homelessness would be better served in most cases by a non-law enforcement response team with appropriate training and expertise. These would include the County’s Psychiatric Mobile Response Team (PMRT) or the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) Emergency Outreach Team. When people call for help during a crisis, they often call 911 and receive a law enforcement response that could be ineffective at best and harmful at worst.
Hahn’s motion instructs the Human Services Crisis Response Coordination Steering Committee to report back to the board in three months on the feasibility of:
- Establishing a unique number for non-law enforcement health and human services crisis responses;
- Reconfiguring 911 to more effectively triage calls involving health and human services crises to non-law enforcement first responders by default.
$3 Million Dollars in Small Business and Non-Profit Grant Assistance to be Deployed Through New Los Angeles-Area COVID Recovery Fund
As businesses and nonprofits across the Los Angeles region continue to face challenges in response to the public health and economic crisis of COVID-19, the County of Los Angeles, the City of Los Angeles, and philanthropy have partnered to deploy $3 million dollars in grants for small businesses, nonprofits and microentrepreneurs in a newly launched LA Regional COVID-19 Recovery Fund.
The $3 million dollar Recovery Fund, established as a joint effort by the County of Los Angeles, who have contributed $2 million dollars, and the City of Los Angeles, who have contributed $1 million dollars, as well as additional support from philanthropic partners, aims to assist small businesses, nonprofits, and microentrepreneurs that have been adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, providing $5,000 grants to microentrepreneurs, and $15,000 grants to nonprofits and small businesses. To ensure equitable access to capital across various demographics throughout the region, grants will be distributed through an equitable lottery system.
“Our small businesses and social enterprises are not only the economic engine of our region but its heart and soul,” said LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “We know that once COVID-19 is gone, the economic damage will remain. We must do all that we can to make sure we’re supporting them through this difficult and unprecedented moment.”
“Small businesses have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, and we need to deliver every possible ounce of support, resources, and investment to help get them—and our region’s economy—back on track,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. “From day one of this crisis, our City has acted to keep businesses open and workers on the job, and the LA Regional COVID-19 Recovery Fund is another vital source of financial assistance for the very backbone of our communities.”
Given the urgency for assistance, the Recovery Fund will be deployed in two phases and make technical support immediately available throughout the application process. The first phase will consist of a grant program, and a second phase will consist of a loan program that will launch at a later date. Starting on July 6, 2020, the first phase will deploy $3 million in grants available at $5,000 for micro-entrepreneurs and $15,000 for small businesses and non-profits. Both phases of the Recovery Fund will be accompanied by support from diverse technical assistance partners, funded by philanthropic and private sector partners. Support for these efforts include $1.1 million from the Wells Fargo Foundation, $100,000 from Citi, and funding from MUFG Union Bank Foundation.
Those who need assistance are encouraged to call (833) 238-4450, LA County’s Disaster Help Center and one-stop for local emergency resources. The Disaster Help Center will connect callers to LA Regional COVID Fund partners and provide the most updated Fund information.
July 1, 2020
As COVID-19 transmission rates continue to rise, this guidance instructs counties that have been on the County Monitoring List for three consecutive days or more to close indoor operations for certain sectors which promote the mixing of populations beyond households and make adherence to physical distancing with face coverings difficult. Within those sectors, those that are not able to continue their business through outdoor operations must close that portion of their business effective immediately for at least three (3) weeks, in order to further mitigate the spread of the virus. In addition, all brewpubs, breweries, bars, and pubs in these counties must close, both indoors and outdoors.
As part of the State’s efforts to address COVID-19, the State monitors county specific data and provides technical assistance, support and interventions to counties that have concerning levels of disease transmission, hospitalizations, or insufficient testing. Counties on the County Monitoring List are under active monitoring by the state, and may receive targeted engagement and technical support from CDPH and other agencies and departments including the Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency, the Department of Industrial Relations and the California Department of Food and Agriculture.
As of July 1, there are 19 counties on the County Monitoring List, which includes:
Contra Costa, Fresno, Glenn, Imperial, Kern, Kings, Los Angeles, Merced, Orange, Riverside, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Joaquin, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Solano, Stanislaus, Tulare, Ventura
To reduce disease transmission and to protect residents across the state, one strategy available to the state is to work with counties to further modify or close some or all of the sector openings currently allowed under the State order.
Given current rates of disease transmission in some counties and the need to reduce gatherings where mixing with individuals outside of one’s household and disease spread occur, CDPH is requiring closure, within counties on the county monitoring list for three or more consecutive days, of indoor operations, while allowing outdoor operations with appropriate modifications, including physical distancing and face coverings, for the following sectors:
• Dine-in Restaurants
• Wineries and Tasting Rooms
• Movie Theaters
• Family Entertainment Centers
• Zoos and Museums
All industry or sector guidance documents that have been issued to date, including all infectious control measures outlined in those guidance documents, apply in outdoor settings, and thus must be adhered to. In addition, all brewpubs, breweries, bars, and pubs must close indoor and outdoor operations in these counties.
The data is clear that community spread of infection is of increasing concern across the state, and in particular for those counties on the County Monitoring List. Beyond the impact on the general population, community spread increases the likelihood of expanded transmission of COVID-19 in congregate settings such as nursing homes, homeless shelters, jails and prisons. Infection of vulnerable populations in these settings can be catastrophic, both in terms of high rates of morbidity and mortality of individual residents, as well as through the high demand such infections would place on the hospital delivery system. We are seeing these increases already in many of the counties. Higher levels of community spread also increase the likelihood of infection among individuals at high risk of serious outcomes from COVID-19, including the elderly and those with underlying health conditions who might live or otherwise interact with an infected individual.
California’s Pandemic Resiliency Roadmap for reopening is a risk-based framework that guides state and local governments on a path to re-opening industries under strict workplace modifications. Whereas other industries and establishments were permitted to open with modifications in Stage 2 or Stage 3, the above outlined sectors operating indoors operate at the highest risk of all sectors allowed to open so far. These specific sectors also create an environment that increases levels of community mixing of individuals outside of one’s own household, increasing the risk of escalating the R-effective, or effective transmission rate, of COVID-19.
The sectors at issue in this document are all high risk of transmission due to a number of features of the businesses and the behaviors that occur within them. These sectors, foundationally, are settings where groups convene and may mix with others for prolonged periods of time without appropriate protective equipment, such as a face covering. For example, it is difficult to consistently wear a face covering in a restaurant. Additionally, physical movement within the establishment, duration of time spent in the establishment, and the degree of social mixing among individuals and groups outside one’s household are all significant in these sectors, which substantially elevates the risk of transmission even where face coverings can be worn.
The risk is particularly high in indoor settings. Reinstituting indoor closures among these sectors is not only important because of data from counties on the monitoring list, but because the science of disease transmission and from recent studies have shown that the transmissions is greater in indoor settings due to the release of infectious particles into the air when someone speaks, coughs, sneezes, or sings, which is exacerbated in indoor spaces particularly when lacking appropriate ventilation. Furthermore, in some of these sectors centered on eating and drinking, compliance with face coverings is not possible for the full duration of time someone spends in these establishments. Additionally, the workforce of these sectors face higher exposure to diseases transmission because of the environment in which they work.
A recent study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for example, demonstrates clearly the effect of a single asymptomatic carrier in a restaurant environment. The study shows that approximately 50 percent of the people at the infected person’s table become sick over seven (7) days, 75 percent of the people on the adjacent table that is downwind in the interior ventilation system become infected, and even two of seven people on the upwind table become infected. (1)
Physical distancing also protects an individual with brief exposures or outdoor exposures. When distanced, there is not enough time to achieve the infectious viral load when standing six (6) feet apart or where wind and the infinite outdoor space for viral dilution reduces viral load. A study, which still needs to be peer-reviewed, suggests that the odds an infected person transmitting the virus in a closed environment was 18.7 times greater compared to an open-air environment. (2)
Alcohol consumption slows brain activity, reduces inhibition, and impairs judgment, factors which contribute to reduced compliance with recommended core personal protective measures, such as the mandatory use of face coverings and maintaining six feet of distance from people outside of one’s own household, making outdoor operations for brewpubs, breweries, bars, and pubs challenging, further creating opportunities for virus transmission and thus need for closure. Additionally, there is a growing body of evidence tracing large COVID-19 outbreaks in both urban and rural states, to indoor and outdoor operations of bars.
In the setting of an increasing body of evidence demonstrating that transmission is decreased when activities are conducted outside, and risk for exposure is increased when mixing beyond those with whom one lives, in an effort to mitigate to potential spread of COVID 19, the state is requiring that settings where patrons gather to be served or participate in the businesses’ primary activity be moved outdoors.
(1) Lu, J., Gu, J., Li, K., Xu, C., Su, W., Lai, Z….Yang, Z. (2020). COVID-19 Outbreak Associated with Air Conditioning in Restaurant, Guangzhou, China, 2020. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 26(7), 1628-1631. https://dx.doi.org/10.3201/eid2607.200764.
(2) Nishiura et al. (2020). Closed environments facilitate secondary transmission of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.02.28.20029272v2.
California Department of Public Health
PO Box, 997377, MS 0500, Sacramento, CA 95899-7377
Department Website (cdph.ca.gov)
LOS ANGELES – Controller Galperin, in cooperation with the City’s Economic and Workforce Development Department (EWDD), released an interactive map and tracker displaying the microloans funded by the City of Los Angeles to help small businesses ineligible for federal CARES Act dollars get the assistance they need during the COVID-19 pandemic. The tracker includes a map with the name, location and how much money each business received, and also groups recipients by industry. Since April, EWDD has distributed more than $3.4 million through 227 loans in amounts between $5,000 and $20,000.
“People should know how public dollars are being used to support small businesses in their communities,” said Controller Galperin. “Unlike the Treasury Department in Washington, which is only releasing some information about the businesses receiving federal coronavirus relief funds, the City of Los Angeles is committed to full transparency. This tracker will ensure public accountability and better inform Angelenos about how the City is helping our local economy.”
Update on the Implementation of Body-Worn Cameras by the LA County Sheriff’s Department – Board Anticipates Roll Out by Mid-July
LOS ANGELES -The roll out of the body-worn camera program that will ensure greater accountability of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is on target for mid-to-late July, following months of collaborative efforts between the county and the Sheriff’s Department. The Sheriff’s Department will be able to equip 5,200 deputies and security officers with devices over the next two years utilizing the nearly $35 million that the Board of Supervisors set aside last year specifically dedicated for this program.
The Board of Supervisors has prioritized greater transparency and accountability from the Sheriff’s Department for several years, developing key policy initiatives and identifying appropriate funding and staffing to allow for the swift implementation and operation of the body-worn camera program. The Board’s support in making this program a reality included the following:
Approved a motion authored by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas to implement the recommendations on the need to curb excessive uses of force (which included the use of body-worn cameras) as part of the Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence in 2012. The Board also approved subsequent motions.
Enlisted the help of the Office of Inspector General (OIG) in September, 2015 for a detailed analysis of the proposed body-worn camera policy prompting the County to begin a lengthy process of assessing the cost of such a program.
Directed the Sheriff to implement the body-worn camera program and appointed the OIG to monitor implementation in September, 2019.
Engaged the OIG and Civilian Oversight Commission (COC) to give specific feedback to update and strengthen policies that would enhance the use and efficacy of body-worn Cameras, such as the review and release of camera footage.
The Civilian Oversight Commission and the Inspector General have also given specific feedback and recommendations to the Sheriff’s on how to improve the proposed policies on body-worn cameras, around topics such as the reviewing and releasing of camera footage, aimed at bolstering community trust in this new technology. These issues remain unaddressed.
Once the implementation takes effect next month, the Sheriff’s Department will have the responsibility to roll out body-worn cameras with monitoring and input from both the OIG and COC.
One day in July 2016, Casey Newton, a tech reporter for The Verge, sat down at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park for the biggest interview of his career. Across from him was Mark Zuckerberg. With his characteristic geeky excitement, Zuckerberg described the promising initial test flight of Aquila, a drone with a wingspan larger than a 737 jet that was part of his plan to provide internet connectivity all over the world.
Though Newton hadn’t witnessed the test flight in Yuma, Arizona—no members of the press were invited—he believed Zuckerberg’s account of it. When his article was published, it reported that Aquila “was so stable that they kept it in the air for 90 minutes before landing it safely.”
Months later, however, a Bloomberg story revealed that the flight hadn’t gone so smoothly after all—Aquila had crashed. While the craft had indeed stayed aloft for longer than intended, high winds tore a chunk out of a wing, leading to a crash landing.
“I immediately, of course, felt like an idiot,” Newton says. “In retrospect there were definitely questions that I should have asked that I did not.”
Facebook downplayed the crash, offering to the press a range of excuses: a rough landing was always expected; the cause was mostly a software malfunction; the long flight time was the real story. Newton published a more critical follow-up piece, but the damage was done: he had been had. (The Aquila drone was soon grounded and, within two years, the entire program scrapped.)
“That experience, honestly, it really changed the way I thought about the company and reported on the company,” Newton says. “Before that, I sort of thought, My goal is to get in front of Mark Zuckerberg and ask him questions, and if I do that, I can do good journalism.” After the Aquila experience, Newton realized that he could be sitting in front of the CEO and still not get the story. “You’re better off trying to report around the margins of the company.”
Newton is still in touch with executives at Facebook—some of them are subscribers to his newsletter—but he’s since focused his attention on the company’s abuses of low-level employees and third-party contractors. He no longer trusts Facebook like he once did.
It can feel impossible to comprehend Facebook’s total influence—or to overstate its impact on journalism.
Newton’s professional arc, from enthusiastic tech beat reporter to skeptical industry investigator, matches the trajectories of a number of journalists in recent years. The 2016 presidential election in particular prompted a change in worldview against Facebook and the power wielded by Big Tech. The media had learned, perhaps belatedly, the cost of taking Facebook at its word. More recent, and adversarial, reporting has produced important stories about Facebook’s refusal to tackle the proliferation of right-wing extremism and conspiracy theories on its platform. In advance of the 2020 election, more journalists are taking a hard look at the Trump campaign’s once-heralded digital operation, which spends heavily on Facebook advertising, and its bombastic overseer, Brad Parscale, who has been promoted to overall campaign manager.
Beyond the company’s dissembling, reporting on Facebook’s operations has become increasingly complex simply because of its size. The company controls the communications and informational intake of more than two and a half billion people. It can feel impossible to comprehend its total influence—or to overstate its impact on journalism. The past four years have made tech reporters out of many journalists who would otherwise confine their scope of interest to politics, culture, labor, or economics. Facebook’s reach extends across every beat.
In conversations with more than fifteen journalists and industry observers, I tried to understand what it is like to cover Facebook. What I found was troublesome: operating with the secrecy of an intelligence agency and the authority of a state government, Facebook has arrogated to itself vast powers while enjoying, until recently, limited journalistic scrutiny. (Some journalists, like The Observer’s Carole Cadwalladr, have done important work linking Facebook data to political corruption in the UK and elsewhere.) Media organizations have stepped up their game, but they suffer from a lack of access, among other power asymmetries.
Many journalists contacted for this story declined to talk out of fear of hurting relationships with Facebook’s communications shop. A number of journalists agreed to be interviewed, only to pass after speaking to their editors and PR reps. Some spoke to me off the record.
Nearly everyone I talked to acknowledged that the relationship between Facebook and journalists had dramatically deteriorated in recent years. It wasn’t long ago, after all, that Facebook and its comms shop was, for many journalists, a valued source.
Facebook appeared in 2004, during a period of general techno-optimism. The site had a palatable origin story, a wunderkind founder, and a minimalist design, and it was largely treated as a trendy newcomer to the social network scene. Covering the company soon became a full-time job for some tech journalists, especially at digital publications like TechCrunch or Gizmodo that expected writers to generate a stream of news and scoops. Meanwhile, Facebook’s comms shop practically acted as an assignment editor, doling out exclusives to generate good press and curry favor with journalists.
Kate Losse, an early Facebook employee who would go on to write The Boy Kings, a memoir of her time at the company, told me in an email that journalistic coverage of Facebook in its first years was focused mostly on product updates. A notable story might be about a new feature in the site’s news feed.
Sam Biddle, a reporter at The Intercept who was working at Valleywag and Gizmodo in the early 2010s, told me that Facebook would offer up scoops to journalists that they credulously swallowed. “It was like pigs at a trough,” Biddle says. “We were all trying to get the same drip-drip of product news out of Facebook, no matter what outlet you were at.”
In those years, scandals involving the company were mostly low-grade stuff: users unhappy about design changes; public disputes between the founders (as dramatized in The Social Network); murky data collection practices that caused the FTC to force Facebook to sign a “consent decree” in 2011.
Facebook did face some public criticism about its role in eroding consumer privacy, but any skepticism tended to be watered down with exuberant praise. A 2008 GQ profile of Zuckerberg anointed him “Boy Genius of the Year” even as it asked, “Do you trust this face?”
In private, Facebook has cultivated relationships with writers and influencers while also carefully working to shape a public narrative. In 2018, as part of a lawsuit filed in a UK court, the company produced thousands of pages of documents and emails that revealed how the company’s comms team operated during part of 2014 and 2015. Staffers and their partners at the OutCast Agency, an outside firm, worked with reporters for months on articles that they hoped would paint the company in a good light. A Time magazine cover story about Facebook’s charitable mission to “wire the world” that was facilitated by Facebook’s Internet.org division was applauded internally as a win.
Sometimes, Facebook wrote the story itself. Emails in the document dump suggest that in 2014, in the run-up to Facebook’s F8 show, at which it unveils new features for developers, staff at the OutCast Agency wrote an article about how to use Facebook to build an app. They sent the article to a man named Eric Siu, who has written extensively and positively about using Facebook in business, for publication under his byline at Entrepreneur.com. The article does not appear to have been published, but it shows that Facebook is willing to push its message using Astroturfed content under the patina of credibility lent by sites like Entrepreneur. (Siu didn’t respond to requests for comment; nor did several former OutCast Agency staffers who now work in various divisions of Facebook.)
A similar tactic was employed in 2018, after George Soros criticized Facebook as a “menace” against which society needed to be defended in a public speech in Davos. The company hired a firm to produce incendiary pro-Facebook research that contained anti-Semitic tropes about Soros, a Jewish Holocaust survivor, as the shadowy funder of anti-Facebook groups. The documents were then passed around to journalists with the urging that they look into Soros’s financial interests. In the ensuing controversy, Elliot Schrage, Facebook’s head of comms and policy and already on the way out, was blamed, while Sheryl Sandberg and Mark Zuckerberg stated they had no knowledge of the affair.
“Facebook employs the only comms people who have ever yelled at me.”
The 2016 presidential election changed everything. After Donald Trump’s ascent, greased by the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the embedding of Facebook staff in the Trump campaign’s digital operation, tech was seen as a political force unto itself. Journalists began digging into Facebook in a way few had before.
The company responded by closing itself off. “People have described it to me as a bunker mentality,” says Charlie Warzel, a New York Times opinion writer who covers technology, media, and politics. “The relationship is just naturally strained by the fact that they’re dealing with a crisis pretty much weekly, if not more frequently.”
In 2018 and 2019, Caryn Marooney and Rachel Whetstone, two of Facebook’s leaders in policy and communications, left the company. In their place, Warzel notes, Facebook has installed some “really talented flacks” from political power centers like Washington, DC, and London. Those include Nick Clegg, the former British Lib-Dem party leader, and a handful of former Republican operatives, such as Joel Kaplan, Facebook’s VP of policy, who is also a prominent friend and supporter of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Campbell Brown, a former CNN anchor and charter school booster who is married to Dan Senor, himself a former Mitt Romney adviser and spokesman for the US military occupation of Iraq, was brought in to develop relationships with news organizations. Mike Isaac, a New York Times technology reporter, estimates that the comms and policy divisions now employ several hundred people.
The company’s PR team also appears to have gotten more sophisticated. In 2017, Zuckerberg went on a yearlong “listening tour” across the United States that, while it earned some mockery, raised his political profile. Top execs including Andrew Bosworth and Adam Mosseri have been tweeting more, giving the impression of public availability. And Facebook PR staff sometimes contact reporters about their tweets, trying to quash stories before they emerge. “They have smartly all gotten on Twitter and basically watch all reporters on Twitter,” Isaac says.
To expand its public outreach, Facebook publishes blog posts to explain new initiatives and efforts to clamp down on misinformation. The company continues to make use of embargoed scoops. It also cultivates reporters and influencers through off-the-record dinners, conference calls, and media scrums.
Taylor Lorenz, a New York Times Style reporter, told me that last year she attended an off-the-record dinner sponsored by Instagram. She described the guest list: an Instagram executive, bookers from morning shows, editors of pop culture websites, music critics. To her mind, the dinner didn’t present company propaganda so much as opportunities for informal conversation about trends or new products—what an executive might think about TikTok, for example. But in terms of actual reporting, these events count for little.
“When it comes to anything consequential, I’m not going to talk to them on background,” Lorenz says. “I want to hear what they have to say on the record. Otherwise it’s useless to me.”
Marie C. Baca, an independent journalist who has written extensively about Facebook, says off-the-record events are an attempt to shape a story’s reporting from its inception. In 2018, when Baca was a reporter for the Albuquerque Journal, Facebook’s PR staff came to town to hold off-the-record events about one of their programs for small businesses. Reporters were game, she said, because it was the only access they could get.
When they are not courting journalists in off-the-record meetings, Facebook representatives are known to be difficult, even combative.
“Facebook employs the only comms people who have ever yelled at me,” Biddle says.
Lorenz has also seen Facebook shift its tone. “I think the tension comes when you report on anything political,” Lorenz says. “The stakes are higher for them.” While reporting a story earlier this year on Michael Bloomberg’s purchase of positive messages from influencers, Lorenz heard constantly from Facebook PR representatives. She compared the level of attention to when she wrote an article a couple of years ago about Facebook’s balky ads system. At the time, Facebook PR reps called Lorenz and demanded headline changes and corrections, which she and her editors refused.
One longtime Silicon Valley reporter who covers Facebook told me the company has a history of front-running stories—feeding information to other publications to get ahead of potentially bad press. It has demanded, and received, approval for quotes.
Several reporters told me that Facebook, like other large tech companies, makes aggressive use of off-the-record sourcing to obstruct the reporting process. “It’s pretty standard for a tech comms person to give you an on-record statement, they’ll talk about the story with you on background, and then when it’s published, they’ll come back to you and try to undermine it off the record,” says Biddle.
“It has a big effect on the finished product,” he explains, meaning that he’s left with important information he can’t tell his readers. “To the extent that salient, substantive answers are given to reporters during these conversations, it’s often done in a way that minimizes the reporter’s ability to actually transmit that information to their readers.”
I experienced some of this myself while reporting this article. Over the course of two weeks, I spoke with a Facebook communications representative via phone calls and email—all off the record. I described the general arc of my story and asked specific questions about important details. The evening before publication, the company representative provided responses, on background, to my questions, as well as a statement from John Pinette, Facebook’s vice president of global communications. “The majority of reporters we work with tell us our relationships with them are professional and productive,” he wrote. “A company of our size and impact is going to attract scrutiny from journalists, and it should. That’s why it’s in our interest to develop relationships based on trust and candor.”
Indeed, the impression the comms person endeavored to create was one of openness—Facebook is constantly talking to journalists, after all—without providing much real information that I could share transparently with readers.
Michael Nuñez, a technology journalist who has worked at Forbes and Gizmodo and has broken several notable stories on Facebook, is more blunt in his assessment of Facebook’s comms operation. In his experience, he says, Facebook has been “willing to lie on the record.” Nuñez recalled reporting on an internal poll in which Facebook employees asked Zuckerberg whether the company should do something to try to stop Donald Trump from becoming president. When he asked a Facebook flack about it, they denied the poll existed. “I remember begging this person: ‘I’m not asking you to confirm the validity of this,’ ” Nuñez said. “ ‘I’m looking at [a screenshot of] it. I’m just here asking you for a comment.’ ”
In Nuñez’s eyes, Facebook is not a trustworthy interlocutor. “The company seems to be pretty comfortable with obfuscating the truth, and that’s why people don’t trust Facebook anymore,” he says. “They’ve had the chance to be honest and transparent plenty of times, and time and time again, you see that the company has been misleading either by choice or by willful ignorance.”
Others, like Warzel, see in Facebook’s battle-hardened posture a strategic effort to resemble companies like Amazon, which rarely responds to public controversy and somehow manages to weather every storm.
Facebook has erected a vigorous security apparatus and modified its internal culture to one defined by secrecy and a loose-lips-sink-ships attitude.
Openness was once a part of Facebook’s internal culture. The workplace was known for Zuckerberg’s weekly all-hands meetings, in which employees could submit questions for consideration. According to a longtime Silicon Valley reporter, the company shared information internally “knowing that there was no reason for employees to go talk to a reporter. People were generally happy. People enjoyed their jobs. They thought they were connecting the world and making it a wonderful place. And I guess any internal debate stayed within the confines of the company. Now you start to see a lot of cracks in the facade.”
The cracks have made way for more internal dissent, including an employee walkout in June in a rare show of public protest against Zuckerberg’s refusal to crack down on threatening posts by President Trump. Amid this bubbling-over of discontent, more leakers have appeared. In October, a recording of an all-hands meeting was leaked to Newton at The Verge in which Zuckerberg talked about company threats ranging from TikTok to Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s antitrust proposals. To stanch the leaks, Facebook has erected a vigorous security apparatus and modified its internal culture to one defined by secrecy and a loose-lips-sink-ships attitude. “It is locked down in a way in which no other tech company is,” says Warzel.
With the knowledge that a company that has built a globe-spanning surveillance apparatus might always be watching, reporters and sources take tremendous precautions. Any Facebook-issued device, or even a phone with the Facebook app installed, could be vulnerable to the company’s internal investigators. If a source has friended a reporter on a social network or merely looked up their profile on a company computer, Facebook can find out. It can potentially tap location data to see if a reporter and a source appear to be in the same place at the same time.
Warzel compares the company’s mentality to that of an intelligence agency. “I have former Facebook sources who will tell me an interesting tip and then lament that they don’t know a single person who could possibly confirm this, even though these people would like to confirm this, because they don’t own a single device that Facebook couldn’t forensically tap into to figure out the source of a leak.”
Facebook hires ex–CIA agents for its security operations, says Newton. (BuzzFeed has also reported on Facebook’s hiring of former intelligence officers.) After he started doing critical reporting on the company, he went through his own information security training.
In 2016, after Nuñez published a Gizmodo article on political bias in Facebook’s trending-topics feature, every one of his Facebook friends who worked at the company was individually called into a room and interrogated by company staff. Private messages between Nuñez and his friends were read back to them.
“It’s really unfortunate because it seems there are employees at Facebook who genuinely have a conscience, a sense of moral and ethical obligations, and want to see the company adhere to that,” Warzel says. “Every big powerful organization leaks, and that’s a way of holding it accountable outside the walls of that company.
“More and more of the best journalism is going to be done without any help from Facebook.”
What Facebook has become is the press’s assignment editor, its distribution network, its great antagonist, devourer of its ad revenue, and, through corporate secrecy, a massive block to journalism’s core mission of democratic accountability.
Faced with these daunting circumstances, what can journalists do better?
Part of the challenge of covering Facebook is that many beat reporters are not granted the time and resources needed to develop sources within a hostile company. Instead, they are often expected to report on the latest viral controversy. Every week seems to bring new evidence of horrific behavior abetted by the Facebook platform and overlooked by its harried staff of poorly paid moderators. The result is accountability journalism that points fingers but doesn’t address root problems. This kind of reporting is important, but there’s a way in which it serves as a form of reactive content moderation that Facebook should be doing on its own. It leaves one to ask: What does accountability journalism look like for Facebook when its own systems of accountability are so lacking?
One story helps sum up the situation. In 2018, Jesselyn Cook, a tech reporter for HuffPost, learned that photos of her had been taken from a Facebook photo album and posted in a private Facebook group. The posts were sexist and abusive, and Cook began to receive harassing messages. She reported the group to Facebook, but no action was taken. Eventually, she managed to get the ear of one of the group’s administrators, who agreed to delete the photos.
Two months later, Cook contacted Facebook again—this time as a reporter seeking comment about the experience for an article—and the company quickly responded. Within hours, the group was deleted.
Cook’s experience is sadly representative. Too often, the company doesn’t acknowledge a problem—harassment of doctors by anti-vaccine activists, say, or deception in political advertising—until the press covers it or a politician complains. It’s as if Facebook is constantly playing a game of whack-a-mole, but at its own pace and with little regard for its users.
“Facebook responds best to bad press,” Judd Legum, who publishes the newsletter Popular Information, says.
This dynamic serves no one. Over and over, the press is left chasing down Facebook reps for comment on a single offensive group or account on a platform of billions of people. Until Facebook provides comprehensive solutions for these problems of harassment, content moderation, and user experience, journalists will always be talking about the latest outrage that pops up on the platform. This leaves little media oxygen for reporting on first-order issues about the company and its larger societal machinations.
Adrian Chen, a former staff writer for The New Yorker and Gawker, says that journalists need to investigate the “internet political economy” as much as the mechanics of the Facebook platform. We need to understand “how they wield their influence politically to create the environment that has allowed them to become what they are.”
What Facebook has become is the press’s assignment editor, its distribution network, its great antagonist, devourer of its ad revenue, and, through corporate secrecy, a massive block to journalism’s core mission of democratic accountability. Whether journalists can survive these conditions to produce meaningful, critical work about Facebook depends as much on their own adaptability as it does on the backing of revenue-minded media owners who might not wish to antagonize one holder of the advertising duopoly during an unfolding economic calamity. Except for one or two premium-tier media properties, journalism needs Facebook more than Facebook needs journalism.
“I don’t think the adversarial relationship between Facebook and the press is going to change,” Biddle says. “It’s a question of whether Facebook is going to stop resenting it so obviously and realize that this is what comes with being an enormously powerful, enormously wealthy corporation.”