Protocol | Policy

‘The Eye of Sauron is looking elsewhere’: How Twitter and Google really feel about Facebook’s troubles

From dumping bad news to cleaning up their own products, Facebook's rivals tend to like when lawmakers focus on their competitor, but some feel there's also real risk to them in Washington's anger.

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The backlash against Facebook could spill over and hurt other tech companies.

Image: Christopher T. Fong/Protocol

For an entire week now, Facebook has dominated nearly every headline — and Twitter and Google are probably enjoying it.

Washington's frustration with Facebook — now Meta, apparently — is a near constant in tech policy, but policymakers' ire at the company has grown in recent weeks thanks to the extensive documents still being made public. Tech companies that aren't Facebook, meanwhile, often feel more than a smidge of schadenfreude seeing a competitor's difficulties, even as they try to avoid scrutiny of their own. Still, rival services also worry that the intensified fury of lawmakers and regulators may well turn on them.

"If you're at a tech company that has had its turn in the barrel, you're often grateful that someone else is in the barrel," said Adam Kovacevich, a former Google policy director. "I think it is very tempting for tech company lobbyists to say, 'Thank God someone else is in the spotlight.'"

The Facebook Papers have greatly brightened that very spotlight. The documents from whistleblower Frances Haugen launched a blockbuster series of reports across several media outlets, portraying the company as putting profits over safety, worsening the mental health of depressed teens and facilitating international political division and human trafficking, among many, many other concerns.

Despite perennial congressional gridlock, lawmakers say they're furious about the mounting revelations, and agencies are reportedly investigating.

Nu Wexler — who has worked as a spokesman for Twitter, Google and Facebook itself — said that while going through a tough news cycle like the one Facebook is now enduring, he'd wake up to messages from European reporters and go to sleep with ones from Asia-based journalists still coming in. All this while his bosses coordinated their response through every Facebook tool, occasionally including personal Messenger accounts.

The other companies, though, have used the scrambling of those at Facebook to their own communications advantage.

"There's no better time to dump bad tech news than during a Facebook news cycle or earnings call," Wexler said with a laugh.

He added that peer companies do sometimes use the time that Facebook spends in the spotlight to try to mitigate concerns that would apply to them as well, because "some of the issues Facebook is confronting, like polarization or misinformation, are tech industry problems or larger societal problems."

Another former Twitter official, who asked not to be named discussing internal conversations, said the scrutiny on Facebook can even benefit smaller social media platforms' product teams as they develop similar offerings to those that got Facebook in trouble.

"It's an opportunity to say, 'Look at how a company like Facebook or Google either handled this poorly or well three years ago,'" the ex-Twitter employee said, giving the example of Facebook's maligned efforts around promoting voting.

The tendency of the biggest players to hire law and PR firms, and otherwise "gobble up the influence and the resources," made smaller companies feel like Facebook deserved the heat, they added.

"You also bear the responsibility of being upfront on things," they said. "Often, we were happy for them to do so."

While the latest Facebook furor follows extensive and continuing media reports, Kovacevich, the former Google employee, admitted the companies also sometimes try to foster such moments by urging elected officials and regulators to focus on competitors, including Facebook.

Kovacevich, who is now CEO of the Chamber of Progress, a tech trade association that counts Facebook as a "corporate partner," said he urges companies to "be careful in fanning the flames or taking too much delight in your competitors' pain," because the result can be regulation that goes far beyond Facebook in its effect.

In fact, Facebook's latest crisis recently led to a hearing this week with YouTube, TikTok and Snapchat, and some lawmakers are pushing for increased regulation to protect kids online.

It's an echo, of sorts: Perhaps the most stinging loss for the tech industry in recent years was an amendment to a legal provision known as Section 230 that attempted to curb online sex trafficking. The law made all kinds of tech companies face more liability for user content. President Trump signed it in 2018, one day after Mark Zuckerberg's first congressional testimony, which unofficially launched the techlash in Washington.

Now, as Facebook contends with Washington's anger, the company is pushing for further changes to Section 230. The move has infuriated other companies that rely on the provision to host and moderate a wide range of content far beyond trafficking.

"Facebook is causing all sorts of conflicts and difficulties with its 230 shenanigans," said a tech policy expert who has worked closely with several companies.

Facebook's public difficulties often prompt other companies to say, "great, the Eye of Sauron is looking elsewhere," the person said, adding: "On the other [hand], their continued malfeasance and failure to have any control of their products is causing reputational harm to the entire industry."


As we come out of the pandemic, consumers will be even more accustomed to highly flexible, customer-centric digital experiences that let them engage with companies on their own terms. Businesses must consider the impact of an even more digital economy with dynamic buyer behaviors and determine how next-generation customers want to consume products and services and interact with them.

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Protocol | Workplace

Google contractor says she was fired for 'ungoogley' behavior

According to a charge filed with the National Labor Relations Board, "ungoogley" is Google's term for having a bad attitude.

A contractor at Google staffing firm Modis claims she was fired from her job after asking about pay.

Photo: Future Publishing/Getty Images

A contractor at Google staffing firm Modis claims she was fired from her job for "ungoogley" behavior after asking about holiday pay at a meeting with management, according to a charge filed with the National Labor Relations Board by a lawyer for the Alphabet Workers Union.

Tuesday Carne said in an interview with Protocol that she was fired after just nine days of working in the data contracting facility in South Carolina. Carne's termination letter (which Protocol reviewed) called her behavior at the meeting "unacceptable and 'ungoogley'" and claimed that her behavior was the reason for her firing.

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Anna Kramer

Anna Kramer is a reporter at Protocol (Twitter: @ anna_c_kramer, email:, where she writes about labor and workplace issues. Prior to joining the team, she covered tech and small business for the San Francisco Chronicle and privacy for Bloomberg Law. She is a recent graduate of Brown University, where she studied International Relations and Arabic and wrote her senior thesis about surveillance tools and technological development in the Middle East.

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Most people don't even realize they're using open banking services today. If they connected their investment and banking accounts in a personal financial management solution or app, they're using open banking. Perhaps they've seen ads about how they can improve their credit score by uploading pay stubs or utility records to that same app – this is also powered by open banking.

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Bob Schukai
Bob Schukai is Executive Vice President of Technology Development, New Digital Infrastructure & Fintech at Mastercard, where he leads the technical design, execution and support of innovative open banking and fintech solutions, as well as next generation technologies to support global payment and data capabilities. Prior to Mastercard, Schukai’s work focused on cognitive computing, financial technology, blockchain, user experience and digital identity. He is also a member of the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers.
Protocol | Policy

Biden FCC nominee Sohn is walking a tightrope with Republicans

Gigi Sohn faces plenty of GOP opposition, but the longtime net-neutrality advocate is hoping to pick up a little Republican support as she deals with Democrats’ narrow margins.

Gigi Sohn’s work for net neutrality has become an issue in her confirmation hearings for the FCC.

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Gigi Sohn wouldn’t mind getting support from a Republican or two, and it’d certainly make her path back to the Federal Communications Commission easier.

During her Senate Commerce Committee confirmation on Wednesday, Sohn, a progressive favorite and longtime net-neutrality advocate, touted her commitment to ensuring a diversity of voices on the airwaves, her past fights for small conservative networks she personally disagrees with and her habit of socializing with those she battles on policy.

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Ben Brody

Ben Brody (@ BenBrodyDC) is a senior reporter at Protocol focusing on how Congress, courts and agencies affect the online world we live in. He formerly covered tech policy and lobbying (including antitrust, Section 230 and privacy) at Bloomberg News, where he previously reported on the influence industry, government ethics and the 2016 presidential election. Before that, Ben covered business news at CNNMoney and AdAge, and all manner of stories in and around New York. He still loves appearing on the New York news radio he grew up with.

Protocol | Workplace

Microsoft Teams is going after small businesses

Microsoft Teams Essentials offers longer, bigger meetings for a relatively small price tag.

Companies can now buy a standalone version of Teams.

Photo: Mika Baumeister/Unsplash

Microsoft announced Wednesday that companies can now buy a standalone version of Teams — one of its most important products and a major player in work messaging and video chat, alongside Slack and Zoom. The product, called Microsoft Teams Essentials, aims to give small or medium-sized businesses a communication hub that costs less than its competitors'.

Microsoft will charge small businesses $4 per user per month for Microsoft Teams Essentials, while Zoom’s cheapest paid plan is $14.99 per user per month and Slack’s is $6.67 per user each month, when billed annually. The free version of Microsoft Teams still exists, as do the various other Microsoft 365 plans that include Teams. Teams Essentials offers longer meeting times, larger group meetings and more cloud storage.

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Lizzy Lawrence

Lizzy Lawrence ( @LizzyLaw_) is a reporter at Protocol, covering tools and productivity in the workplace. She's a recent graduate of the University of Michigan, where she studied sociology and international studies. She served as editor in chief of The Michigan Daily, her school's independent newspaper. She's based in D.C., and can be reached at

Protocol | Policy

5 things to know about NTIA nominee Alan Davidson

If confirmed, the former Googler will play a key role in shaping the unprecedented expansion of broadband across the country.

Alan Davidson has been nominated to lead the NTIA.

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

On Wednesday, the Senate Commerce Committee is holding a hearing to confirm President Joe Biden’s nominee to lead the National Telecommunications and Information Administration — a traditionally somewhat-sleepy role that is taking on new prominence in the wake of the passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill.

That law gives the NTIA authority to write the rules and oversee the distribution of $42.5 billion in broadband infrastructure grants to states, a duty that will require it to massively scale its internal resources. To lead the charge, Biden has nominated Alan Davidson, a well-known figure in Washington who has spent his career cycling through government, industry and advocacy groups. If confirmed, Davidson would have perhaps the most important role in guiding an unprecedented expansion of internet access in America.

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Issie Lapowsky

Issie Lapowsky ( @issielapowsky) is Protocol's chief correspondent, covering the intersection of technology, politics, and national affairs. She also oversees Protocol's fellowship program. Previously, she was a senior writer at Wired, where she covered the 2016 election and the Facebook beat in its aftermath. Prior to that, Issie worked as a staff writer for Inc. magazine, writing about small business and entrepreneurship. She has also worked as an on-air contributor for CBS News and taught a graduate-level course at New York University's Center for Publishing on how tech giants have affected publishing.

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