By now we've all seen the various fake "astroturf" PR/lobbying efforts out there, talking up some particular position, which is almost always created and funded by a company that benefits from having the public (or, more often, politicians) support that position. Most people recognize that they're just false fronts, but the details are often hidden. However, in at least one case, the details have been leaking out. Microsoft, who isn't in much of a position to call "antitrust" violations on others, is trying to stop Google from being able to acquire DoubleClick. In order to get support in blocking the deal, Microsoft apparently had a big PR firm try to put together one of these fake "coalitions" using the name "Initiative for Competitive Online Marketplaces" (gotta love the names of all of these coalitions), which appears to be designed solely to release reports critical of Google practices. The problem, though, is that the email the PR firm used to "recruit" members to join this group has leaked out and is getting press attention
. Again, there's nothing particularly new in all of this. There are countless such organizations, but it's rare to get the details on how one was brought together. In this case, the email being sent to potential participants urges them to complain about Google's practices to politicians, regulators and the media. Even though Microsoft put the group together, apparently the PR firm did not reveal that. This won't change much, of course, and we can probably still expect to see reports coming out from the "Initiative for Competitive Online Marketplaces," but it would be nice to see the press act at least a little skeptical of any conclusions drawn from those reports.