A New Form of Crisis Management: A Facebook Engineer Apologizes on Reddit

By Neil Vidyarthi 

There are many American corporate traditions that are being swept aside by the sea-change of social media. One of those traditions is the lengthy company apology process after a company makes an error that has people up in arms. Companies would once invite the legal team, the PR team, an Executive or two, the marketing team and the offending product team to have a series of round table pow-wows about what messaging and forum to use to apologize publicly. The worst part was that after all that work, often the message still ended up too corporate and ineffectual.

That’s why it’s interesting to see some of the more direct crisis management that occurs on services like Reddit. Specifically, a problem cropped up for Facebook last week when an Engineer named Matt Jones “accidentally blocked imgur for a brief period of time.” He was working to fix some code that blocks spammy URLs, and for some reason his change caused Facebook to add imgur to the spam list, thereby preventing anybody from posting content from imgur. The thing is, imgur is a free image sharing site and is Reddit’s primary source for the avalanche of funny cat memes and Bad Luck Brians.

So that made a few Redditors angry.

They quickly posted a thread on Reddit asking why Facebook was blocking imgur. As is the case with Reddit, the first users began to poke a bit of sardonic fun at the problem, but the comments were tinged with some anti-Facebook venom.

Typically, this is the first crack in the dam on a Reddit post. If given a chance to aggregate and vent, the site can become cruel and vitriolic, and it can spiral into a Facebook hate fest. For an example, see Woody Harrelson’s recent Ask Me Anything.

However, Matt Jones arrivedj ust in time. Only a few hours after the problem was announced, Matt jumped on the thread to candidly apologize and offer a cute picture of his dog. Redditors responded very positively to this move, posting that Matt was “cool” and “one of the good guys.”

So a thread that could have turned into a ‘we hate Big Brother Facebook’ march instead turned into an example that Facebook is a company with some cool people. It also hints that the company is far from Orwellian with their employees, as Matt had the ability to make the change, fix the change and post to Reddit all without having to go through any bureaucracy.

Now, whether they’re going to have a big ‘post-mortem’ pow-wow is a whole different question. I wouldn’t be surprised though, as Facebook is now a public company and if an employee let out some secret or incriminating news it could impede the company’s strategy.

Image: Dmitry Berkut via Shutterstock