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06.01.11

IBM PR is ‘Shaping’ the News (and Asks to Remain Secret)

Posted in IBM, Marketing at 6:05 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

IBM logo on media

Summary: PR staff from IBM tries to affect coverage in Techrights, then asks not to be mentioned as a source

IBM has been keeping a somewhat low profile since all the antitrust trouble it was having. But the company is vast and behind the scenes it has mysterious ways of working (whilst also silently working to preserve software patents). Last night I spent about an hour on the phone confronting IBM. Without getting into all the details, the gist is that we have a policy of rejecting PR manipulation of stories as they develop. IBM seems to think otherwise and we do not appreciate it. This is insulting and degrading. Any journalist who works at the behest of PR people should feel violated and used. People are not pawns of other people on the payroll of large multinationals and they mustn’t be, either. Hitherto we have covered the mischief of Microsoft PR agencies and the only credit we can give to IBM is that it does not do all of its PR via proxies.

We can probably be described as “pro-IBM” because the company has been good to Linux. In the interest of fairness, however, we would like to explain IBM’s weird policy of handling the press, which possibly includes sites like Groklaw. This only delegitimises IBM, which tries to give foresight regarding legal cases. This oughtn’t be done.

“All our readers need to know is that IBM is mass-mailing (“spamming” as some would call it) many people with blogs/papers to affect coverage of the Neon case.”It was not easy to really gather all of this information and it needed to be verified in person. The PR agent who contacted us tried to avoid admission of error. And it turned out that he does not actually read the site (not regularly), even though it took a long time to get such admissions, which needed the right questions to be asked. When asked the right questions, which had the person avoid answering or first not answering and only later realising that it is better to answer (and verify the suspicions) than to deny, truth came out. All our readers need to know is that IBM is mass-mailing (“spamming” as some would call it) many people with blogs/papers to affect coverage of the Neon case. We would have probably written in sympathy with IBM, but after this experience with IBM we’ll skip this opportunity.

It is sad to see IBM stooping so low. It’s not as though it’s a small business struggling for its survival. It is even worse when the PR agent resorts to asking to “stop the conversation” whenever a hard question is raised yet not letting me off the line for fear of what I would write (trying to almost prevent me from writing about my experiences being contacted by IBM PR). We did have a long argument about the role of PR and how it distorts the news and confuses people (the Gates Foundation, for example, is all about PR). This was discussed scarcely in IRC and Identi.ca, so not much more needs to be said. In general, however, we continue to stress that we are not interested in hearing from PR people. Techrights never received funding and it does not intend to. It is editorially independent and it takes research very seriously.

There is so much more to be said, but it’s impossible to summarise one hour of verbal chat in just one post and I wish not to cause harm to any person and/or a family. The bottom line is, IBM should drop the secrecy, it should stop trying to meddle with bloggers/journalists, and it should also start giving a damn about those ‘little people’ who do not want software monopolies and patent monopolies. Nobody deserves this kind of treatment. And let’s not get started with IBM’s many bogus PR accounts in Twitter — those who ‘follow’ real people with the intention of influencing them. We need to save the press and even social networks from mega-corporations which pretend to be peers and fight for people’s mind at the expense of these people. One quarter of everything people buy — on average — is marketing, said some recent statistics (sources unknown). When trillions of dollars are spent changing perception it is us who sponsor this and us who are subjected to disinformation. Truth is not relative. PR is the business of changing “truth”.

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