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Facebook wanted journalists to sign non-disclosures before news conference

What they DID want us to see: Facebook attorney Craig Clark, right, talks to reporters with Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna, second from right, at the press conference in Seattle on Thursday.
The Associated Press
What they DID want us to see: Facebook attorney Craig Clark, right, talks to reporters with Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna, second from right, at the press conference in Seattle on Thursday.

Facebook is apparently pretty concerned about privacy – especially its own.

After announcing that Facebook and the State Attorney General’s office would announce a “joint legal strategy" this morning, the AG’s office followed up with an email requiring journos sign a non-disclosure agreement.

The email was sent to all journalists invited to the press conference at Facebook's Seattle office involving company officials and Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna.

Dan Sytman, the AG’s Deputy Communications Director, wrote in an email sent out to news agencies at 8:10 a.m.:

“Facebook asked me to pass this on to you. They require it of all visitors to their facilities. It only applies to things that you might accidentally stumble upon while you are there and covers nothing discussed during our news conference. Please either bring a signed copy or be ready to sign upon arrival.”

Somehow inviting a pack of journalists to a press conference and then telling them they have to wear blinders and not talk about anything they might see in a side office, overhear from a water-cooler conversation or perhaps a yelled statement revealing an intellectual property secret, seemed like a bad PR move.

And apparently someone in the AG’s office felt the same way after at least two news organizations – The Seattle Times and The Associated Press – refused to sign the agreements.

Two hours after the first email and apparently after some in-house discussion, Sarah Lane, the AG’s Director of New Media sent an email stating:

“I’m writing on behalf of Dan Sytman. You may disregard the nondisclosure agreement that we sent earlier.”

We’ll report shortly on the substance of the press release … and whatever else we might have seen!

Update: We didn't see anything. Our reporter said they let her and the others in the front door and the press conference was directly on their right. Other than that, nothing to see, she said. No diagrams outlining Facebook's future growth plans, no employees ... just the officials.

The announcement

McKenna and Facebook have filed two federal lawsuits against Adscend Media to combat what they called a clicking spam plaguing the social network site.

In this spam, links on Facebook promising shocking or salacious videos have embedded in them code that spreads the link to the user's page, making it seem like the user "liked" the link, with the aim of attracting more clicks.

Craig Clark is Facebook’s lead litigation counsel.  He says Adscend works with a network of affiliate spammers to pull off what is estimated to be a $20 million a year business.   

“We can and do play whack-a-mole with individual spammers; we sue them we go after them, we stop them. We want to also efficiently target the head of the snake where we can, where it’s possible. The objective is to stop the flow of money that encourages the spam in the first place, and disrupting the ecosystem. Not just on Facebook, but across the Web.”

Gist of the non-disclosure

“You may become aware of non-public information related to Facebook and its products, services, programs, features, data, techniques, technology, code, ideas, inventions, research, testing, methods, procedures, know-how, trade secrets, business and financial information and other activities through disclosure, observation or otherwise in the course of your visit … All Facebook Confidential Information remains the property of Facebook. You agree not to disclose any Facebook Confidential Information to any third party, and to take all reasonable precautions to prevent its unauthorized dissemination …”

Facebook's non-disclosure agreement sent to journalists

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