"Conspiracy" has numerous definitions. Simply put, it's an agreement between two or more persons to engage in evil, unlawful, treacherous, or subversive acts for their personal gain. The words "conspiracy theory" carry heavy connotative weight and they're often applied when a business or governmental agency is suspected of being up to no good.
So when it was revealed that Facebook, the leading social network company, was implicated in a conspiracy to push negative press about Google, a ripple of surprise went through the digital community. What would prompt Facebook to stoop so low as to hire a PR firm to pitch news articles falsely accusing Google of privacy violations, and subtly pushing for investigations by federal authorities? Whispered rumors of Facebook's involvement in the relatively minor PR scandal turned out to be true. (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB100...)
Facebook did in fact hire PR firm Burnson-Marsteller to do a little dirty work. And it all came to light when a slightly irritated blogger, who had been pitched a Google-bashing story by the PR firm, published the email exchange. For a couple of days, Facebook lagged in obscurity until it was clear that they would have to admit some involvement.
Facebook defended its actions, admitting that they were a bit underhanded, but they wanted to let the public know that Google was using data from Facebook users and that it could be a possible violation of privacy -- pretty lofty for a company that has come under fire numerous times for their own infringements of individuals' privacy. (http://www.wired.com/epicenter/2010...)
Exactly what are these privacy violations that Facebook is so concerned about? Apparently, Google's new social-networking platform, Social Circle, sometimes makes use of Facebook content in its secondary connections section. Industry experts honed in on the conspiracy the minute Facebook came clean basically saying Facebook is threatened by Google's foray into the social-networking arena, and this was their not-so-slick attempt at corporate espionage. (http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-...)
We live in a society of constant competition, and as such are surrounded by reports of covert and shady business dealings. Most of the time, the conspiracies are strictly for financial benefit. You don't have to look far to find numerous documentaries and exposes exploring and revealing these truths. The food industry is conspiring against us to maintain our business as repeat customers even if the inclusion of food additives is killing us; the medical industry conspires to keep us heavily medicated on drugs that often do more harm than good. All around us, companies, industries and governmental agencies conspire against us for their monetary gain.
Conspiracies have been around since biblical times. Remember Jacob? He conspired with his mom to rob Esau of his patriarchal blessing. Yet we tend to have a love/hate relationship with conspiracy theories: We are either extremely skeptical or very willing to attest to its probability. While jumping on every conspiracy bandwagon might classify you as a paranoid "conspiracy theorist", ignoring well-documented and proven truths based on subtle and not-so-subtle PR spins is, to a certain degree, hiding out from reality.
For example, many accusations previously labeled "conspiracy theories" have been verified as true, including the existence of the mafia and their extensive political and corporate ties; Nixon's participation in Watergate and his direct involvement in the infiltration of the Democratic National Headquarters (which he steadily denied); and even the CIA connection to drug running in Los Angeles. (http://www.newworldorderreport.com/...)
We don't need to be a society that sees intrigue and scheming at every turn, but we do need to be aware of the deceit that exist around us.