Sony’s PR firestorm in the wake of a massive hack by a group calling itself Guardians of the Peace was given more fuel when sensitive company data, including salaries and internal emails, were leaked Wednesday.
Earlier releases included information showing star Seth Rogen earned $2 million more than “The Interview” co-star James Franco, but now additional company salaries—including those of top executives—are on display as well. According to The Washington Post:
Data on Sony’s employee pay revealed a huge gender gap among the highest-paid U.S. employees. According to data on 6,000 employees, 17 U.S. employees are making $1 million or more, and only one is a woman.
In addition to the leaked salaries, also made public was a series of internal emails, including a nasty fight between film producer Scott Rudin and Sony Entertainment Chairman Amy Pascal. A thread referencing movies President Obama might like to watch (they were all racially themed, with “12 Years a Slave” and “Django: Unchained” specifically named) drew particular criticism.
Rudin apologized Thursday morning for both the racial comments he made as well as remarks such as calling Angelina Jolie “a minimally talented spoiled brat”:
Private emails between friends and colleagues written in haste and without much thought or sensitivity, even when the content of them is meant to be in jest, can result in offense where none was intended. I made a series of remarks that were meant only to be funny, but in the cold light of day, they are in fact thoughtless and insensitive—and not funny at all. To anybody I’ve offended, I’m profoundly and deeply sorry, and I regret and apologize for any injury they might have caused.
Shortly after Rudin’s apology, Pascal released one of her own, which read:
The content of my emails to Scott were insensitive and inappropriate but are not an accurate reflection of who I am.
Although this was a private communication that was stolen, I accept full responsibility for what I wrote and apologize to everyone who was offended.
The release of the emails is not only a humiliating turn of events for Sony execs—chances are good that more company executives will scramble to make apologies as additional material is leaked—but it’s an “unprecedented” attack on a U.S. company, according to Business Insider.
“Sony Pictures needs to figure out a way to stop the bleeding, before it can get to healing,” Engadget‘s associate editor and lead video producer, Edgar Alvarez, wrote in a detailed timeline of the hack.
Time reports Sony is resorting to fighting fire with fire—or, in this case, hacking with hacking—in order to stop the bleeding. Sebastian Anthony writes in ExtremeTech that Sony is deploying more than fake content:
It is more likely that Sony is poisoning the BitTorrent swarms that are sharing the stolen data, making it very hard for people to download data —and if they do succeed in downloading, the poisoning should mean that the data is too corrupt to be of any use.
Anthony writes that Sony is allegedly using “hundreds of computers” to carry out a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack on the people sharing stolen content. These attacks slow, and even stop, users from accessing the files.
Some have come to the company’s defense, including director Judd Apatow:
Releasing private Sony e mails to hurt people is the same as releasing nude photos of Jennifer Lawrence. Why are they ok to print?
— Judd Apatow (@JuddApatow) December 11, 2014
Philip Lord, writer and producer of “The Lego Movie,” even goes so far as to say Sony executives were the victims in this situation:
The Sony hack is terrorism. Publishing the information aids terrorists. Sony execs are victims, and filmmakers. We should stand with them.
— philip lord (@philiplord) December 10, 2014
The more information is leaked, however, the more critics are finding it hard to accept the depiction of Sony executives as victims. PR pros should take note, as this might just impact the way we communicate in the future—both internally, and externally.
What do you think, PR Daily readers? Is Sony’s response less than stellar?