Ever Wonder How These Astroturf 'Coalitions' Are Formed?

from the lobbyists-and-shills-and-pr,-oh-my! dept

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.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    David Shepard, Sep 25th, 2007 @ 11:32am

    The Evil empire Strikes Again!

    Okay here is what I don't get: Why is this so hard to get away with? Is it so difficult to use an anonymous yaoo or gmail address? Sheesh, what bozo's. Criminal masterminds they are not!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    RandomThoughts, Sep 25th, 2007 @ 11:42am

    Would you want to join a group that came from a Hotmail account?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    David Shepard, Sep 25th, 2007 @ 11:49am

    Re: Random Thoughts

    I didn't think of that. However, I wouldn't want to join a group that came from a PR account either. In any event, the point of my post was the seeming lack of stealth in these "astroturfing" attempts. Perhaps they are just discounting our intelligence.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    RandomThoughts, Sep 25th, 2007 @ 12:09pm

    David, either that or they figure that folks will find out anyway, so why bother to really hide it.

    Personally, I wouldn't want to join any group that wanted me as a member.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    CharlieHorse, Sep 25th, 2007 @ 12:27pm


    Dinkeldein !

    okay, so I'm in a VERY immature mood today ... ;-P

    besides, I'm forming my own coalition. so I don't wanna join no stinkin' "initiative for Competitive Blah Blah Blah"

    MY coalition will be called the Coalition for Hampsters, Easter Eggs, Spam, and Ernest aka C.H.E.E.S.E.

    Ernest is my friend. He has a hamster who likes to eat spam. (No kidding!) I think they are underrepresented in the marketplace of ideas and so we will be releasing several press releases over the next few weeks to garner attention to the plight of hamsters who like to eat spam.

    I have no idea what Easter Eggs have to do with anything.

    thank you.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    David Shepard, Sep 25th, 2007 @ 12:52pm


    What this item really underscores is power and sophistication of the modern corporation. Democracy has been stolen. Damn it!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 25th, 2007 @ 1:22pm

    Re: Re: Random Thoughts

    That's just it. Notice how these PR firms and companies will use so many different names for these coalitions that hire a firm that fund a research organiztion? Its so that the average jane/joe won't put two and two together.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    David Binkowski, Sep 25th, 2007 @ 8:08pm

    PR firms needs to be held accountable too

    Mike, I was really hoping you'd out the PR firm behind it. You and I talked, and you know I'm fighting the good fight and taking companies on the high road of transparency, ethics and honesty. I know most people hate PR firms but there are people on the inside showing the light -- these types of tactics are unethical and need to be exposed. The consumer revolution will take full hold when we start boycotting the brands of the firms representing this kind of dishonesty.

    BTW, not all coalitions are bad - in some cases it's a matter of shared resources vs. a multi-billion dollar company or industry.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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