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Carphone Warehouse AstroTurfing Exposed, Microsoft’s Voyage Into Twitter Continues

Posted in Deception, Fraud, Mail, Marketing, Microsoft at 8:26 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

No kneeling

Summary: Carphone Warehouse disguises AstroTurfing as worship on the Web

Boycott Novell has had its encounters with agencies whose job is to plant fake (paid) blog posts. We always snitch on them. See Unruly Media for example. It seems reasonable to bring criminal charges* against such agencies (and those who hire them for services) and then shut them down permanently. We already do all that we can to address this problem [1, 2, 3, 4] and today we hope to help expose Carphone Warehouse, thanks to our reader David Gerard. Here is David’s summary of the incident:

This just arrived and appears genuine. Carphone Warehouse are (a) sending spam (b) to request blog spam. I suggest not dealing with them, cancelling existing contracts with them, and telling them why.

For future reference, a copy of the evidence is appended in the body of this post. Here is another complete copy:

Delivered-To: dgerard@gmail.com
Received: by with SMTP id n10cs431768mug;
Mon, 13 Jul 2009 05:41:07 -0700 (PDT)
Received: by with SMTP id x3mr5020984ebp.28.1247488867684;
Mon, 13 Jul 2009 05:41:07 -0700 (PDT)
Return-Path: <webpartners@mobiles.co.uk>
Received: from mobiles.co.uk (mail.mobiles.co.uk [])
by mx.google.com with ESMTP id 5si330642eyh.50.2009.;
Mon, 13 Jul 2009 05:41:07 -0700 (PDT)
Received-SPF: pass (google.com: domain of webpartners@mobiles.co.uk designates as permitted sender) client-ip=;
Authentication-Results: mx.google.com; spf=pass (google.com: domain of webpartners@mobiles.co.uk designates as permitted sender) smtp.mail=webpartners@mobiles.co.uk
Received: from [] (HELO ds4)
by mobiles.co.uk (CommuniGate Pro SMTP 5.2.14)
with ESMTP id 22484445 for dgerard@gmail.com; Mon, 13 Jul 2009 13:41:07 +0100
Subject: =?iso-8859-1?Q?davidgerard=2Eco=2Euk?=
Sender: “=?iso-8859-1?Q?webpartners@mobiles=2Eco=2Euk?=” <webpartners@mobiles.co.uk>
From: “=?iso-8859-1?Q?webpartners@mobiles=2Eco=2Euk?=” <webpartners@mobiles.co.uk>

Date: Mon, 13 Jul 2009 13:41:05 +0100
To: “=?iso-8859-1?Q?dgerard@gmail=2Ecom?=” <dgerard@gmail.com>
X-Priority: 3
X-MSMail-Priority: Normal
Content-Transfer-Encoding: Quoted-Printable
MIME-Version: 1.0
X-Mailer: JMail 4.3.0 by Dimac
Content-Type: text/plain;
Message-ID: <auto-000022484445@mobiles.co.uk>

Hello. I`m Chris Conwell, Director at mobiles.co.uk. A wholly owned subsidiary of the Carphone Warehouse Group, we were the UK`s first retail mobile phone website (launched in 1995) and are now the largest web-only mobile phone store in the UK.

I was searching the web for decent potential partners and came across davidgerard.co.uk. I have an idea which I hope you will find useful:-

We would like to have our editorial team research and hand write some content for you to add to a page on davidgerard.co.uk. We will agree a subject with you that is relevant to both of our sites (it won`t be a sales pitch for us!) and will include a single simple text link back to a relevant content page on our site. The content will be uniquely written for you and will not be re-used elsewhere. It should be helpful to your visitors and of course the search engines, as will the presence of a relevant link back to us. Hopefully we will also benefit from the link in the longer term. We are not currently in the position of being able to exchange or return links so we thought this could be a good alternative.

Naturally there are no costs whatsoever for you.

If this isn`t appropriate for you, please accept my sincere apologies for having troubled you.


I realise you may prefer to simply reply to this email which is no problem and I`ll respond as quickly as I can. However, I have found that email isn`t always as reliable as everyone thinks plus I`m out and about a lot of the time. We have therefore created a simple and quick-to-use response page that provides detailed information and answers to questions on the various options and allows you to send messages to our team . . and lots more.
The page is at http://www.mobiles.co.uk/partner-response.html and we have created an access code for davidgerard.co.uk which is 20090711150119IEQFU.

If you feel I should not have sent you this email, I`m really sorry – please just reply with REMOVE in the subject.

Please let me know your thoughts.

Kind Regards – Chris Conwell
Mobiles.co.uk Ltd is a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Carphone Warehouse Group PLC

Registered in England no. 3253714 at 1, Portal Way, London W3 6RS

It is not enough only to expose but to also shut down the agencies that do all of this. Lack of complaints means that they can carry on unabated (maybe just humiliated).

It is worth adding that Microsoft steps deeper into Twitter.

As of late Wednesday, the new Microsoft account had three posts — one pointing to a new feature, one to a new product, and another to a positive review of Microsoft’s Bing search engine.

The last time we summarised Microsoft’s activity in Twitter was last month. There are also the following posts to become familiar with because Microsoft hired several agencies to police Twitter:

More information on the subject of Microsoft AstroTurfing is appended below.


“I’m a huge fan of guerrilla marketing.”

Joe Wilcox, Microsoft Fan

* The practice is already illegal in Europe (there is actually a good link to a more recent article about the Commission ushering a law around June). The US FTC catches up. People should contact the European Commission and/or the FTC (the World Wide Web has no physical borders). Those who still AstroTurf are essentially breaking the law, which was officially passed over a year ago.

From December 31, when the change becomes law in the UK, they can be named and shamed by trading standards or taken to court.

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Pages that cross-reference this one


  1. eet said,

    July 14, 2009 at 8:38 am


    Again, load of garbage. Roy, is it asked too much that you try to produce LESS but more SUBSTANTIAL ‘articles’. Well, of course, why do I bother asking…

    Mikko Reply:

    why are you here if you hate this place ?

    eet Reply:

    Precisely in order to show that not all Linuxers are foaming-at-the-mouth lunatics. Because that is the impression a casual visitor would get from reading this website.

  2. DiamondWakizashi said,

    July 14, 2009 at 12:24 pm


    Here are Bing propagandists on Twitter:



    joo Reply:

    Here are BN propagandists on Twitter:


  3. Yggdrasil said,

    July 14, 2009 at 5:47 pm


    I wanted to make a comment on this article:


    But it seems you have disabled comments or they are not working for some reason. Allow me to continue here:

    I’m sure “you” do indeed check the messages of anyone who posts to this website if they defend Microsoft or disagree with your worldview. This is exactly what you have done to me. You do this because you are desperate for attention. Seeing an IP address that might trace back to Microsoft headquarters would feed into your fantasy. One man fighting a crusade against an evil empire. I realize that even by responding to you I am helping to feed that fantasy. This is why I don’t post from my original IP address. Also, because I don’t think you are above carrying out your own denial of service attack against me. Maybe I’m wrong, but I haven’t seen your personal side and I’m not really sure you have one. Who are you working for? Have you ever told us? What is your job? Are you still a student? You would have a difficult time proving this hobby isn’t a full time job, and that does beg the question, “Who pays your bills?”

    As far as Wong is concerned, his “about” page spells it out pretty clear with the first list item: “I am… a technology evangelist working for the biggest software company in the world.” To be creative, he didn’t give the name of the company, but most people would know the largest software company is Microsoft. They could also look at his tag posts and see the largest tag is, that’s right, Microsoft. You are trying to make him out as a deceptive snake, but this would defy common sense. Logic dictates that if Microsoft really wanted to have someone spread covert word of mouth advertising, they would direct someone to create a profile that in no way mentions them working for the company.

  4. aranur said,

    July 15, 2009 at 8:53 pm



    you regard Wong’s about page as creative, I consider it deceptive.

    Yggdrasil Reply:

    And you would be completely wrong. To be deceptive would be giving false information. Wong didn’t do that. He used a common literary device that we’ve all seen many times before.

    For example, rather than telling people I live in Asia, I can say, “I live on the largest continent in the world.” No rational (key word here) person would believe I am being deceptive because Asia being the largest continent is common knowledge and for those that did not know, this information is easy to obtain.

    The only possible way this could be considered deceptive is if I purposely directed this statement at a person who I knew wouldn’t know which continent is the largest and wouldn’t be able to figure out the answer on their own.

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