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Microsoft Reported to the FTC for AstroTurf Marketing

Posted in Deception, FUD, GNU/Linux, Google, Marketing, Microsoft at 4:48 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“It could be argued that Microsoft’s unethical Technology Evangelism (TE) practices are “old news”—i.e., that Microsoft stopped using these questionable TE practices long ago. This is very unlikely to be the case, for at least three reasons.”

James Plamondon, former Microsoft "Technology Evangelist", 2008

Summary: Microsoft’s paid AstroTurf exceeded readers’ patience, so a formal complained is filed

WEEKS AGO we wrote about the FTC planning to put an end to bribed bloggers. We have already filed a complaint about Microsoft's PR department (Waggener Edstrom) which is bribing bloggers and we finally find that New York state fines companies for fake testimonials. But the nature of today’s complaint is different.

“One Microsoft employee even edited our Wiki to insert promotional links.”This complaint is mostly sparked by a Microsoft-employed “Technology Evangelist” that keeps flooding us with Microsoft-promotional comments whilst he tracks the site (for Microsoft, he is just one among many, whose role involves unethical and sometimes illegal practices). It is probable that there are others who do the same thing in this Web site (anonymous or pseudonymous) because there are no disclosures and at least 2 other Microsoft employees commented in our site this week (in defense of Microsoft). One Microsoft employee even edited our Wiki to insert promotional links.

The main Microsoft “Technology Evangelist” at hand refused to add disclosures to his comments after being exposed. He was asked politely and repeatedly (here for example) to append disclosures. He had never offered any disclose before he was exposed and he doing the same thing in other Web sites where people do not know that he is paid by Microsoft to do “Technology Evangelism”. This activity includes Google bashing and Linux bashing, obviously.

Here is the complaint I sent.

Subject: AstroTurf Marketing by Microsoft Corporation, Without Disclosure


Federal Trade Commission
Consumer Response Center
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20580
E-mail: antitrust@ftc.gov

It has come to my attention[1] that you are working to end the practice of unethical marketing on the Web. I hereby wish to file a complaint about “Microsoft Corporation”, lodged at address:

Microsoft Corporation
One Microsoft Way
Redmond, WA 98052-7329
Tel: (425) 882-8080
Fax: (425) 706-7329

The firm employs people whom it calls “Technology Evangelists”. They travel the World Wide Web and comment in Web logs (blogs) in order to manage perception about Microsoft products, without offering any disclosure. I have the identity of at least one such Microsoft employee, who is littering my Web site with Microsoft promotion and offers no disclosure about his job. This phenomenon is very widespread and I shall produce substantial proof as you require it.

With kind regards,

Roy Schestowitz

[1] http://news.cnet.com/8301-13578_3-10269962-38.html

This is not being mailed in vain.

Our complaint to the European Ombudsman, for example, was a great success and we have been sending extensive proof now that they are on the case, exchanging E-mails and phonecalls with us.

Microsoft’s perception management [1, 2] for key products like Bing, Silverlight and Windows 7 [1, 2, 3, 4] must end. It is done in a way that violates the law. Other companies are arguably breaking the law in a similar way, but they do not go quite as far Microsoft [1, 2].

We advise other victims of Microsoft “Technology Evangelism” (AstroTurf marketing) to do the same and report such issues. otherwise it will never stop.

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