Facebook may be getting pelted of late by revelations from whistleblowers and damning internal documents made public, but the Mark Zuckerberg co-founded social media giant has decided to draw the line when it comes to the upcoming TV series Doomsday Machine.
“AC can seek to create the Series without reliance on the absurd characterizations and false narratives of the Book,” said a letter sent this morning to Anonymous Content CEO Dawn Olmstead from GreenbergTraurig partner Mathew Rosengart on behalf of Facebook, in regards to the Claire Foy-starring project based on the bestseller An Ugly Truth.
“Although our client is a public figure, the truth still matters,” added Rosengart, who also has Britney Spears among his clients.
The TV adaptation was announced earlier this month, with The Crown veteran cast as Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. No word yet on who is playing Zuckerberg. (Also, no word on what the brand-besieged Facebook plans on changing its name to later this week, as has been rumored.)
Warning Anonymous Content, which is producing the Ayad Akhtar-created series with Mare of Easttown producer wiip, to not proceed “recklessly” or risk exposing “AC and others, including financiers, investors, insurers, talent, and exhibitors to significant monetary liability,” the four-page correspondence from Rosengart is a classic case of a warning shot across the bow. At the same time, the letter makes it clear that Facebook considers the New York Times’ Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang’s July 2021-released An Ugly Truth: Inside Facebook’s Battle for Domination to be full of one “grossly misleading characterization” after another. Putting the threat of a defamation lawsuit out there, Rosengart aims to send a chill:
As an initial matter, Facebook obviously recognizes that it is a public figure and has great respect for the First Amendment and the right of journalists and film or television producers to publish stories about it. As you know, however, the First Amendment does not protect knowingly false statements or portrayals—or those made with reckless disregard for the truth—even about public figures. Accordingly, although Facebook might consider working with you to ensure the project (if it proceeds) is accurate and truthful, this letter places you on express notice that (i) the Book is replete with false and defamatory statements, characterizations, and implications about Facebook and its leadership and also places Facebook and its leaders in a “false light,” in violation of California law and (ii) if the screenplay includes false statements, characterizations, and implications (and does not include appropriate nuance and context), Facebook will take all appropriate legal action.
In that vein, the letter cites four particular portions of An Ugly Truth as legal traps. Disputing that the tech goliath made a “deal” with Donald Trump or that the company spies on it staff, Rosengart claims that the well received and acclaimed An Ugly Truth has “a false narrative.” He goes on to say the book based on the authors’ reporting and the reporting of the New Yorker’s Andrew Marantz “was based on cherry-picked accounts from selective interviews, many from disgruntled individuals who were biased and otherwise lacked credibility.” The former prosecutor adds, “the Book’s authors and editors baldly rejected the truthful accounts of the numerous Facebook executives who spoke with them.”
Reps for Anonymous Content did not reply to Deadline’s request for comment on the correspondence. If and when they do, we will update this post.
Rosengart is of course fresh off getting Spears’ father last month tossed off the oppressive conservatorship that has essentially ruled the onetime Princess of Pop’s life since 2008.
Praised as a “tough as nails streetfighter with a big brain and bigger principles” by client Sean Penn in a recent NYT profile and gushed over (“Thankfully I found an amazing attorney Mathew Rosengart who has helped change my life!!!”) by Spears, who brought the lawyer onboard this summer, Rosengart has also represented the likes of Steven Spielberg, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Eddie Vedder and the NBA’s Jimmy Butler, as well as Michael Mann’s Forward Pass and Open Road Films.
Rosengart will be back in Los Angeles Superior Court on November 12 for a hearing in front of Judge Brenda Penny that looks likely to be the beginning of the end of Spears’ 13-year conservatorship.
On the Facebook front, the stock is up 0.38% today at around $325—that’s up sharply from the $270s at the start of the year but off its 52-week high of $384 earlier this fall amid a drumbeat of negative news launched by “The Facebook Files” series of exposés in the Wall Street Journal and other outlets led by whistleblower Francis Haugen. She is testifying for UK legislators today after a turn in D.C.
Adding to the timing of today’s letter to Anonymous Content, Facebook reports earnings after market close Monday and investors are also anxious to see the fallout from Apple’s new iOS privacy settings that hit Snap’s quarterly numbers and its stock hard last week.
Jill Goldsmith contributed to this report.
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