Seeding the PR at the wrong places to drive away longtime readers
Summary: How the Gates propaganda machine has spread as far as Slashdot, which was originally known and even renowned for its geeks-oriented focus
Microsoft moles and boosters are being used for PR even in less expected sites, such as Slashdot. As is often the case with those people, they serve a dual role of grooming Microsoft and also the Gates Foundation, which they try to charitywash Microsoft with.
The Microsoft plant in Slashdot [1, 2] is at it again this week. “Microsoft Nick is active promoting His Billness,” told us iophk, basing his statement on the alias seen here (he uses known aliases now). It’s always just PR, never any reporting. He did the same thing for years in a site called “Microsoft Watch” (which was a misnomer because it was nonstop Microsoft promotion after he had taken over).
“The site is now run by people who deem it their duty to make Microsoft stronger.”How about Microsoft Nick doing some real reporting for a change? Maybe he can comment on the money Gates was funnelling to ALEC [1, 2], which is now denying global warming (Gates does it yet again) and attacking the working class. No, that would not be a good story, would it? It’s not Nick’s job. He may think he is a journalist, but his profession is more like a mole for Microsoft in various sites, tugging along the official party line.
What can one do to restore Slashdot, bringing it back to its roots? There is not much that can be done, as it increasingly looks like entryism. The site is now run by people who deem it their duty to make Microsoft stronger.
Those who favour FOSS-oriented sites are running low on options, as good sites are shutting down or becoming less active (we covered several examples recently), leaving a lot more room for fake journalism or marketing. █
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Summary: Comment AstroTurf alleged by an industry veteran who has observed and studied this phenomenon for decades
A long time ago, about half a decade into the past, Mr. Dvorak wrote about so-called “Munchkins” and we cited/quoted him on it. He saw these tactics going back to the days of OS/2 and "Barkto". Now that Reddit-planted Xbox AstroTurfing comes to light we should point out a Dvorak article from the end of 2012, around the time of the release of Vista 8 John Dvorak suspected Microsoft was “planting” comments in support of Vista 8:
While following the recent hirings and firings at Microsoft, the presence of Microsoft Munchkins is more obvious than ever to me. I cannot prove their existence, however, unless someone finally steps forward and admits everything. If you are one, please do so!
Munchkins are commenters who I believe work directly for Microsoft or for its public relations agency. They scour the comment boards and rebuke with high authority all criticisms of specific Microsoft products. The reality of these people was well-documented during the Windows versus OS/2 days and I can only suspect that the practice continues to this day.
Once in a while, one of these characters shows up on my blog with a long and seemingly thoughtful post about some Microsoft product. The piece manages to condemn everyone who is critical of something Microsoft did. When you go back into the admin section of the blog where you can look at all postings by that person, the IP address, and other details, you always find that this person has not been on the blog before, and has never posted any prior comments. I can assure that anyone who is long-winded in the comment section posts a lot of comments.
Microsoft and crime are almost synonymous, so it would not be shocking if many or most pro-Vista 8 comments were indirectly funded by the company of crimes as ‘norm’.
Thanks to the reader who showed us the article above; somehow we missed it (we are no longer watching Microsoft closely). █
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“Mind Control: To control mental output you have to control mental input. Take control of the channels by which developers receive information, then they can only think about the things you tell them. Thus, you control mindshare!”
–Microsoft, internal document
Summary: Infiltrating social networks is one of Microsoft’s strategic operations and this brings back older evidence, complementing the new
Several years ago I complained that Reddit had been filled with Microsoft influence [1, 2], similar to what happened to Digg [1, 2] and Slashdot [1, 2, 3, 4]. Well, Microsoft has just been caught AstroTurfing through proxies again. For a criminal company which tries to legitimise racketeering, this is actually a relatively minor offence, but still, it should be noted.
Microsoft’s AstroTurfing on the Web is nothing new and Microsoft’s shadowy PR agencies are, as usual, are managing it. Microsoft did this with Nokia too, Nokia being the proxy at the time (Nokia is also a patents proxy).
As for the evidence of the latest claims, here it is:
Looks like Microsoft just got busted for doing something on Reddit that is a big no-no, according to a Redditor that goes by the name “mistysilver.”
Representatives of Microsoft may be hanging out on the social news site voting up positive comments about the Xbox One, voting down negative comments and adding pro-Xbox comments of their own, Misty Silver says.
Misty Silver didn’t reveal his/her real identity, except to say. “I work for a marketing firm in Redmond that has a contract with Microsoft. I can’t say specifically which division, but suffice to say we are not involved with the Xbox.”
I have been a victim of systematic down-voting, demonisation, identity theft etc. in Digg and elsewhere. Now we know for a fact that Microsoft hires people to do such things. Xbox is a rogue product which significantly harms privacy and consumers' rights (we correctly called the coverage fake hype and paid-for nonsense; to give one example, “[s]hifting the blame from Microsoft” is what iophk calls this latest odd piece), boosted by illegal practices that the FTC said it would go after (but never really did, it was just a face-saving announcement).
“We asked Microsoft for comment on if they have people on their payroll using Reddit,” says the report. This question is asked improperly because Microsoft uses its many proxies to hire the AstroTurfers, as we repeatedly demonstrated before. Microsoft can try to deny using a cleverly-worded reply. “They won’t use their own payroll,” iophk pointed out. “It will be a contractor or sub contractor or subsub contractor etc” (we covered this before).
“Barkto taught them to have a layer of separation,” iophk added. We wrote about Barkto in [1, 2].
Gates and Ballmer, with the two operations they run for patent profiteering, do not do the illegal directly. Their PR department is not inside Microsoft, either. It is just like Intellectual Ventures. When you break the law you always try to obfuscate and remove yourself from a position of accountability. The thing about those thugs is, their “Communications” (PR) heads are often hired from one of these proxies, like Waggener Edstrom (also working to hide or rewrite the scams of the Gates Foundation).
Those who like Canonical can pretend that Microsoft has changed [1, 2, 3, 4] are doing everyone a massive disservice, helping to lend credibility to what clearly remains a criminal enterprise where ordinary people get abused and accomplices share a loot with Ballmer, Gates, and the rest of this legendary Mafia. If you had been on the receiving end of their attacks, you too would understand how serious this whole matter is and why federal action is needed. The FTC hardly did a thing when I filed formal complaints about these abuses by Microsoft; the FTC is there to serve corporations (as in rich managers and shareholders), not people. This means that nobody is regulating against AstroTurfing, not in the land of PRISM anyway. █
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Great example of Microsoft PR agencies distorting the news via moles
Summary: A timely look at how ‘former’ Microsoft writers — not just current ones — help manage perceptions at Microsoft’s behalf, infiltrating the media and even forums
AS WE last explained yesterday, there is some ugly pattern of deception emanating from Microsoft boosters. They try to shift liability for the failure of Vista 8 — a failure that not even they cannot deny any longer. There are ‘former’ Microsoft writers (as in, people who used to work for Microsoft) who continue to promote Vista 8 in various ways. This one, who works for CBS right now, does this trick by saying that low-cost gadgets are “to energize the PC market”. This may be true and Microsoft is totally out of this game, right? Well, not based on his framing. The article by this Microsoft booster mentions “touch-screen laptops” to give the illusion that Microsoft is still relevant in the future. This is how propaganda works. And by citing numbers from Microsoft’s partner Net Applications in the former article he also helps give the illusion that Vista 8 adoption is wonderful. Lies so big that they can make one vomit, eh? With Windows Blue (vapourware) being the focus of Microsoft right now, it is clear that Microsoft is already giving up on Vista 8 (retreat), but the boosters carry on with their deceptive ‘reports’. Well, there are more examples like that, involving many other writers, but we just focus on this one writer (formerly of Microsoft) with his two latest articles which are flawed in order to make the point. Vista 7 relied on similar tactics, including bribery of bloggers.
There is a fairly new article which covers this fascinating and troublesome phenomenon as a whole. Charlie Demerjian’s analysis is summarised as “Unleash the astroturfers to blacken the forums ASAP” (AstroTurfing is perpetually a strategy at Microsoft).
“Given the echo chamber effect of the internet where no one seems to think about the numbers they are reporting much less actually fact check them, it is really easy to manipulate the press and create “truth”. Microsoft is quite adept at this technique.”
–Charlie DemerjianTo quote: “So when Microsoft has good news, they shout it from the rooftops loudly. It is usually picked up by anyone that will listen and printed in just about every news outlet out there. Given the echo chamber effect of the internet where no one seems to think about the numbers they are reporting much less actually fact check them, it is really easy to manipulate the press and create “truth”. Microsoft is quite adept at this technique.”
Microsoft moles in the media are managed by Microsoft PR agencies which pass them material to publish in respective publications. That’s how it works. Demerjian continues as follows: “If change in PCs was needed to spur sales, that didn’t happen during the launches of Vista and 7. Sales rose. It did happen during the launch of Windows 8 and sales plummeted. Before you point out that change may be the actual cause of this plunge, think about one other little thing. You can still get Vista/7 form factor PCs now, you just can’t get them with those OSes. See the logical problem?
“Sadly though the damage control team, agency more likely, did their market research right. The whole fairy tale about PC makers being at fault seem to be getting some legs if not showing early signs of going viral. This is a really well thought out campaign given what they have to work with, cynical, unethical and anti-consumer though it is. Make no mistake though, it isn’t organic and is very manufactured. Things like this don’t go from nowhere to everywhere overnight without lots of backing and low wage forum drones to astroturf on your behalf. That said, it seems to be money well spent on Microsoft’s behalf.”
Be wary of the well-coordinated disinformation campaign, the deception centred around the idea that hardware companies — not Microsoft — are to blame for Vista 8′s poor adoption. Microsoft is trying to play with people’s minds, as always. █
“The first wave will attack the perception that Linux is free.”
–Brian Valentine, Microsoft
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Miscommunication and incoordination
Summary: Microsoft partners such as Gartner are walking away from Microsoft promotion; Microsoft increasingly alienated and isolated
“PC market begins to slip and tablets will outsell desktops and laptops combined by 2015, as Android ascendancy means challenge to relevance of Microsoft,” says The Guardian about the latest Gartner output which is influenced by Gartner partners, including Bill Gates himself. Gartner previously predicted success for Windows Vista, in alignment with its funding sources.
The report comes at a time when Linux outsells Windows if one counts devices that have all the components of a modern computer, smartphones for example. There is laughter at Microsoft’s failure with Vista 8 (Vista 9 vapourware is already out the gate*). This laughter comes from pro-Microsoft sites, to make matters worse. Even the technology tabloid ZDNet is not impressed, despite its business relations with Microsoft. For the first time ever we see Microsoft trying to qualify as an OEM, which only annoys many OEMs/hardware allies. Even Microsoft’s best allies show signs of defection and Microsoft is trying to bribe new friends and developers, begging only for this type of caricature which says: “Apparently Microsoft has decided to expand it’s pay for apps program to cover just about anything. Up until now they were a bit more selective about providing support only to more popular apps.”
This is not going to work. It can upset developers who don’t receive the rewards from Microsoft. It’s not a sustainable strategy. Microsoft has been trying to reinvent itself as a hardware company, always in vain though. The hardware sales were always extremely poor and in the case of XBox billions of dollars were lost. A lot of Microsoft hardware projects are dead now, but Xbox persists despite losses and technical issues that CBS covers as follows:
Don’t want a gaming console that requires a persistent internet connection? “Deal with it,” says Microsoft Studio’s creative director.
There is backlash against what Microsoft is doing there. A lot of Xbox managers quit the company in recent years as the Luddites still don’t get it. Like Apple with its fake reviews, Microsoft continues to rely on censoring negative reviews of its hardware projects/products. Microsoft PR agencies are doing this behind the scenes and my cohost recently researched some of the tactics behind it. He shows why Microsoft and its AstroTurfing may prove counterproductive:
And I suggest that’s why positive reviews can often be viewed with suspicion and maybe getting any 3rd party involved in your online perception is a bad idea. Good products and services will always shine and are not shouted down by a minority. If many people are complaining about your product, then its you with the problem and doing anything but rectifying the product/service is not the direction you should be heading, lest you end up in the situation many Microsoft product posts are where good remarks are always labelled “shill”.
If a lot of people are labelled “Microsoft shill”, then it is Microsoft’s fault. Had the company not engaged in the practice of hiring AstroTurfing agencies so routinely, people would not be quite so suspicious. █
* Interesting fact (from memory): Vista 8 vapourware began in April 2010, about 6 months after Vista 7 was released. Vista 9 vapourware began in April 2013, about 6 months after Vista 8 was released.
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Two companies, two entirely different stories and strategies
Summary: PR moves from a patent aggressor and a notable patent victim which might be preparing for reactive lawsuits
A huge number of sites covered the news from Google, with the notion of ‘free’ software patents. How silly is that? Well, as put better by another site, “Google’s Open Patent Non-Assertion Pledge: Don’t start nothin’, there won’t be nothin’.”
Microsoft, conversely, as a form of threat and PR did this:
Microsoft today launched a searchable list of its complete patent portfolio as part of its defense of the patent system, particularly software patents.
Now that mobile patents are extensively used in litigation and a quarter of issued patents are on mobile (Microsoft still aggressively patents mobile ideas), we expect this list to be used for extortion more than anything. It’s like an arsenal of nuclear weapons to be used to strike patent deals.
The newspeak of extortion as “transparency” is laughable. Watch the longtime Microsoft booster helping the PR by using this “transparency” buzzword in his headline:
Microsoft this morning published a searchable online list of its patent holdings — more than 40,000 patents held by the company and its subsidiaries in the U.S. and internationally — as part of its push for more transparency in the patent system.
What a load of nonsense. It is just hogwash.
Is Microsoft trying to steal Google’s thunder after Google followed the footsteps of Twitter, as we had urged it to do last year? The headline above is not an accurate headline, it is marketing. Here is another poor headline about the real news:
Google announced a “patent pledge” in which it will donate 10 patents related to MapReduce to protect the emerging cloud and big data industry from lawsuits.
The Open Patent Non-Assertion (OPN) Pledge is better than no pledge but not better than no patents. Here is more about it:
Google just announced the Open Patent Non-Assertion (OPN) Pledge, a new initiative whereby the company has promised not to sue developers, distributors, and users of open source software utilizing Mountain View’s patents “unless first attacked.” In introducing the good faith effort, Google is reiterating its passion and support for all things open. “Open-source software has been at the root of many innovations in cloud computing, the mobile web, and the Internet generally,” writes Duane Valz, Google’s senior patent counsel. “We remain committed to an open Internet — one that protects real innovation and continues to deliver great products and services.”
The company isn’t throwing its entire patent portfolio up for grabs, however. Quite the opposite: it’s starting small, contributing a mere ten patents to the pledge. Google claims these patents are already in wide use and that it will eventually expand the set of Google-owned patents that fall under the pledge.
The original announcement generated press not only in FOSS sites but also large news sites [1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23]. The smart folks at TechDirt correctly point out that this might be a prelude to patent lawsuits from Google (preparation and damage control in expectation of negative press), as outlined here. One of our readers asked, “OIN all over again?”
Here is one of the most cited articles about it. it’s from Wired:
Behind the scenes, just about all of the web’s biggest names are mimicking Google. That includes Facebook, Yahoo, eBay, Twitter and so many more.
All of these web giants rely on Hadoop, an open source software platform for crunching data across hundreds or even thousands of computer servers, and Hadoop is based on technology originally developed at Google. A little less than a decade ago, Google published two research papers describing some of the software that juggles data inside its data centers, including a platform called MapReduce, and in short order, a community of software developers — led by Facebook and Yahoo — recreated these tools with open source code.
Expect Google to sue more, but only against companies that sued first. █
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Original photo by Mark Coggins
Summary: It turns out that Dan Lyons, longtime foe of GNU/Linux, was the editor-in-chief at ReadWrite
We and many others in the FOSS world have complained about pro-Microsoft spin in ReadWrite, not knowing that its editor in chief was Lyons [1, 2, 3, 4, 5], whose anti-Linux history is long and well known (notorious even). He promoted the bogus case of SCO, among other things. Earlier this month when Richard Stallman turned 60 Lyons published a personal attack on him (on his birthday!). I wrote that I was shocked that the editors let him do this, not realising that the editor in chief was Lyons himself (it was not widely advertised or known). He attacked other FOSS proponents personally, including SJVN and PJ (very personal attacks, not professional ones). Even Boycott Novell was mentioned by him in Forbes. This is not journalism and this article helps explain why ReadWrite was so pro-Microsoft all these years.
Dan Lyons, the editor-in-chief at tech blog ReadWrite, is leaving for a position at marketing software company HubSpot. We heard the news from knowledgeable sources, and the part about Lyons’ departure for HubSpot was confirmed…
Marketing, eh? Well, he was never a journalist, just a lobbyist/personal attacks specialist. He was using personal attacks for advancement of Microsoft agenda. We might as well assume that HubSpot will join the list of Microsoft PR agencies now. █
“There is nothing so bad but it can masquerade as moral”
–Walter Lippmann (American Journalist, 1889-1974)
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Felons buy a “hero” status
Summary: Bill Gates just got $7,000,000,000 richer (in 2012) while the press he had paid portrayed him as a generous giver
I generally still cover the Gates Foundation, but I do so mostly in Identi.ca due to lack of time (dents are short). This news report merits special attention because it helps keep track of future mouthpieces for Bill Gates:
The BILL AND MELINDA GATES FOUNDATION has given a two-year, $1.6 million grant to PUBLIC RADIO INTERNATIONAL. The funding is intended for a “major initiative to raise awareness, understanding and engagement around critical issues of health and development worldwide,” according to a press release from PRI, which is including the reporting from the project on its syndicated public radio show “PRI’S THE WORLD.” The GATES FOUNDATION has been supporting initiatives at PRI since 2004.
Just like The Guardian, BBC [1, 2, 3], PBS and many others, the bribe or sellout is described euphemistically. Smart people can see through it. It is estimated that Gates spends a million dollars a day just buying the press, i.e. assuring favourable coverage of his agenda. In other news, Gates got seven billion dollars richer last year. So much for “giving away” his wealth. He has a tax-exempt investment company because he paints it “charity”. Buying the press to manufacture consent? That’s just slush funds to him. It’s part of the business model of the Rockefellers, too. █
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