- A New York Times story said that Facebook had employed a Washington DC-style research firm to spread potentially damaging stories about Facebook's critics.
- The story also mentioned that there is another technology client which is paying the firm, Definers Public Affairs, to spread negative stories about Apple.
- Business Insider reporters have previously been contacted by Definers representatives about information they think could be damaging to Apple and positive for Qualcomm.
- While all signs appear to point toward Qualcomm as the mystery client, Qualcomm has remained silent and has yet to respond to repeated requests for comment, and Definers declined to comment.
Facebook is facing a firestorm on Thursday after a bombshell New York Times report said that it had contracted with a public affairs firm to spread negative information about its critics to reporters.
Facebook said on Thursday that it had ended the relationship with Definers Public Affairs, a Republican-linked firm.
But Facebook is not the only technology company that has contracted with them to spread political-style, so-called "opposition research" to reporters. There is another tech company that has contracted with Definers - only this time, the target is Apple.
The question remains: Who hired the firm?
From the Times story:
"Mr. Miller acknowledged that Facebook and Apple do not directly compete. Definers' work on Apple is funded by a third technology company, he said, but Facebook has pushed back against Apple because Mr. Cook's criticism upset Facebook.
If the privacy issue comes up, Facebook is happy to 'muddy the waters,' Mr. Miller said over drinks at an Oakland, Calif., bar last month."
Qualcomm and Apple are poised to enter into a multi-billion court battle over patents, licensing, and the amount of money that Apple pays Qualcomm to use its wireless technology in its products. Neither side is preparing to settle the legal dispute, in which Qualcomm alleges that Apple owes it $7 billion in unpaid royalties.
In one episode, I was approached by Definers' west coast head, Tim Miller, late last year with a story idea about the legal battle between Qualcomm and Apple and fines that the iPhone giant was incurring related to the legal action. Miller also approached other Business Insider reporters with suggestions for stories involving both Apple and Qualcomm.
NBC news also reported on Thursday that a former Definers employee had identified Qualcomm as a Definers client.
Do you know anything about the Definers Public Affair client? Got a tip? Contact this reporter via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Twitter DM at @kifleswing. Secure messaging available upon request. You can also contact Business Insider securely via SecureDrop.
The episode highlights the fact that Washington DC campaign-style political tactics have infiltrated the previously clubby world of technology communications as Silicon Valley and Seattle's biggest companies have come to wield unprecedented money and power.
As Miller said in an interview with Recode, Definers goal was to "have positive content pushed out about your company and negative content that's being pushed out about your competitor." He also then declined to identify his tech clients.
Qualcomm did not respond to multiple requests for comment, and declined to comment to NBC. Miller declined to comment. Apple declined to comment.