CCO Of Activision Blizzard Busy Blocking Everyone, Including Employees, On Twitter Amid Fair Employment Lawsuit

from the maybe-try-blocking-the-harassment-instead dept

Good public relations, when mired in a controversy, isn’t always easy, but it does tend to be quite simple. If you have a controversy on your hands, be direct, be honest, be transparent, do not attempt to paper over the controversy with other good works already done, and for the love of god do not give any indication that you’re turning a deaf ear to those who are upset over the controversy.

Or, if you’re Activision Blizzard, do the exact opposite of all of the above and definitely trot out your own Chief Compliance Officer to do so. The context around this is that Activision Blizzard was recently sued by the state of California over its workplace practices, with specific issues revolving around reported treatment of women and people of color that, if true, are absolutely horrific.

Bloomberg reports that the suit, filed on July 20, is the culmination of a two-year investigation into the publisher by the Department, which says that Activision Blizzard’s “compliance with California’s broad workplace protections is long overdue.”

“To enforce such compliance,” the case says, “DFEH brings this government enforcement action seeking to remedy, prevent and deter [Activision Blizzard’s] violations of state’s civil rights and equal pay laws.”

The accusations contained in the suit and in the statements by purported victims range from the unfortunately common, women and PoCs not being paid and promoted at the rate of their white male counterparts, to the far more extreme and horrific. The other end of that spectrum includes accusations the “cubicle crawls” performed by male employees in which they crawl under the desks of female coworkers and grope them, women having to ward off unwanted sexual advances on the regular, and at least one female employee killing herself after a supervisor showed up on a business trip with sexual devices for reasons too obvious to need to state.

In a particularly tragic example, a female employee committed suicide during a business trip with a male supervisor who had brought butt plugs and lubricant with him on the trip.

The lawsuit, brought by California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing, was filed on July 20th. On July 23rd, Activision Blizzard’s Chief Compliance Officer, Frances Townsend, is reported to have sent an email out to Blizzard staff that takes great pains to do the opposite of much of what I mentioned would have been good PR: talked about how great the company is on workplace and equality issues, downplayed the lawsuit, etc.

So, not a good start. Other Blizzard execs appeared to be trying to portray a listening posture to all of this, while Townsend instead downplayed and papered over the whole thing. Then, on July 30th, again in the context of the company she’s the CCO for, she tweets out the following.

Reaction to Townsend’s combined actions ranged from curious as to what in the world she was attempting to accomplish to the far more common reaction of absolute disgust and anger with her actions and statements. The Twitter reaction to her has been quite scathing. Duly so, in this writer’s opinion. This, again, is the time when good PR needs to take over: apologize directly, be transparent, build a plan for doing better.

But Townsend’s gonna Townsend, I guess, so instead:

Taking all this into account, along with the content and timing of her tweet, public reaction has not been positive! It has been almost universally challenged or mocked, which is expected, it’s Twitter and that happens every day, it’s what the ratio is there for. But what’s notable here is that rather acknowledging that she, as an executive employed in a leadership position at a company in turmoil, had made a bad tweet and responded accordingly—by doing something like locking her account, deleting the tweet or simply ignoring the criticism and getting on with whatever the rich do on the weekend—she began systematically blocking anyone even mildly critical of her decision to share a story about the perils of whistleblowing while her company is in the midst of historically shocking allegations brought on by employees testifying confidentially.

That includes multiple journalists and developers from outside companies, but also many current and former employees of Activision Blizzard as well. Her employees, and colleagues. Now is as good a time as any to take a look at Blizzard’s core corporate values, one of which is “every voice matters”.

Every voice matters, unless the CCO doesn’t like what that voice is voicing, in which case she will happily block even her own staff on social media. A staff that has staged walkouts over all of this. A staff that has reportedly been failed by its executive leadership, of which Townsend is a part. A staff that makes it possible for women like Townsend to make the salaries they do.

Hiding from your own staff and journalists isn’t good PR. In fact, it isn’t good anything. If Activision Blizzard wants to start doing good, it may want to start with a staffing problem it has at the CCO position.

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Companies: activision blizzard

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Comments on “CCO Of Activision Blizzard Busy Blocking Everyone, Including Employees, On Twitter Amid Fair Employment Lawsuit”

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This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Manabi (profile) says:

Her Account's Been Deleted

Trying to load the tweet on Twitter gives the "This Tweet is from an account that no longer exists." error message. I’m not sure if that’s her throwing the ultimate tantrum ("I’m taking my ball and going home!") or finally doing something smart. After all, it’s hard to tweet your foot into your mouth when you don’t have a Twitter account to tweet with.

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Manabi (profile) says:

Re: "Manabi" another sparse commenter, two nearly two years gaps

I see OOtB’s still as pathetic as ever, and still as stupid and nonsensical. There’s one two year gap in my comment history, another one year & four months, and a seven month gap. And I own my full comment history because I made an account, unlike troll baby here who just likes to whine and insult people as an anonymous coward. (;一_一)

It’s amazing that you haven’t grown up any since 2017 when I was last reading and commenting regularly. To be fair, I guess it’s hard to develop when you only have two brain cells, one focused on insults and the other on whining. ( ¬‿¬)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: "Manabi" another sparse commenter, two nearly

you allegedly** did something other than comment on techdirt for two whole years? I guess given that persons’ apparent … needs, it would make sense how that would be unable to comprehend a real person doing anything other than commenting on techdirt.

** Sorry I’m too lazy, and don’t actually care, so I’m not going to click your profile link to very that very "terrible" allegation.

Also, welcome back.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: "Manabi" another sparse commenter, two nearly two years

Welcome to the club. I moved cities, changed jobs, came back after five years or so, only to be greeted by good old Baghdad Bob hollering "ZoMbIe! Oh, lawd!" clutching his pearls and falling towards the fainting couch.

Baghdad Bob reckons everyone sock puppets – the same way he got caught doing back on Torrentfreak back in the day. The alternative – that TD is actually read by people not employed by Mike Masnick – is just too horrible for him to contemplate.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Bloof (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The merger happened in 2008, the nightmare blizzcon with the Cosby Suite happened in the 2010’s, as did all the hiring practices so he had plenty of time to find out something was wrong, but here we are. Kotick isn’t going anywhere, shareholder pushback on payouts isn’t enough to remove him, so he’s going to survive this.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Oh no no no, they’re not union busters(no you don’t need to look into their history, you can trust Activision/Blizzard to have the best interests of their workers in mind) they were totally signed on for the employees, someone super trustworthy that the workers can feel safe taking their concerns to and who will most certainly not be focused first and foremost on what benefits the company and how to bury the next ‘minor disagreement over workplace interactions’ so that those meanies on social media and prosecutor’s office don’t go making mountains out of molehills again.

Anonymous Coward says:

He’ll be happy to know some parts of the internet are more bothered by the sexism related to male video game characters being jacked instead of the sexism related to real workplace issues. And I’ve learned if you don’t share this view then you’re just as bad as Blizzard executives to them. Pretty solid way to readjust PR. Hey we may discriminate in the workplace, but let’s not forget it’s actually the people who play our games who are the real bad guys.

Anonymous Coward says:

I see this as another manifestation of the MBA-approach to public relations: it’s a form letter based on (1) total ignorance of anything in the company that doesn’t appear on the financial spreadsheets; (2) total ignorance of the actual criticisms; (3) total confidence that this is the ideal state of affairs.

It is not fair to attribute this to innate sociopathy; it’s what they teach ’em in them thar business schools.

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