Bonum Certa Men Certa

Microsoft, TCS, DCI, Edelman, and Those Fake Letters About IP/SCO/Monopoly

Microsoft's "letters from the dead" fiasco was discussed here before [1, 2], but once a careful look is taken, more can be found. There are a few more parties involved.

TCS’s articles have also complemented work being done by DCI. During 2000, Microsoft contracted with DCI to perform various services, among them generating “grassroots” letters opposing a breakup of Microsoft and launching Americans for Technology Leadership, an anti-breakup group funded in part by Microsoft and run out of DCI’s office. Meanwhile, down the hall, Tech Central Station went on the offensive, inaugurating an “anti-trust” section that over the coming months would publish little except defenses of Microsoft and attacks on the software maker’s corporate and governmental antagonists, with occasional detours into the subject of lawsuit reform. (Microsoft smartly plugged some of the articles on its own Web site.)

(More on the fake letters here; another bit of Microsoft astroturf here.)

With TCS pushing Microsoft’s agenda in one area, what do they publish about Open Source software, another strategic concern for Microsoft? To find out, I collected all the articles published in TCS on Open Source software and listed them in the table below.


The original from Talking Points Memo is no longer there. A lot more can be found here however. it's an eye-opening analysis of lobbyists in the press.

Concentrating on Microsoft specifically, here is another oldie.

Ziffle passed along this note about Microsoft's lobbying campaign to Utah attorney general backfiring. Apparently Microsoft has more support from dead people than Chicago Democrats.


In retrospect, this fiasco was useful because it is a good method for finding the relationships between various pressure/marketing groups and Microsoft. The Web Archive still has a copy of this article that's no longer there. It moved here:

Letters purportedly written by at least two dead people landed on the desk of Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff earlier this year, imploring him to go easy on Microsoft for its conduct as a monopoly.

The pleas, along with more than 100 others from Utah residents, are part of a carefully orchestrated nationwide campaign by the software giant that may be backfiring. Microsoft sought to create the impression of a surging grass-roots movement, aimed largely at the attorneys general of some of the 18 states that have joined the Justice Department in suing Microsoft.

The Microsoft campaign goes to great lengths to create an impression that the letters are spontaneous expressions from ordinary people. Letters sent in the last month are on personalized stationery using different wording, color and typefaces, details that distinguish Microsoft's efforts from lobbying tactics that go on in politics every day.


Here is the Edelman connection.

Microsoft got grilled again earlier this month when details of its latest public relations campaign came to light. Working with Edelman Public Relations, the Redmond, Wash., software giant allegedly planned to launch a prefabricated "grassroots" campaign to aid it in its legal battles with the Justice Department and state attorneys general. The companies planned to use everyday citizens to plant letters to the editor and other materials that would make it seem there was an outpouring of public support for Microsoft.


This proves that Microsoft does a lot of its work by proxy, as it hired agencies to do its dirty work.

Edelman is the same firm that bribed bloggers with Windows Vista laptops [1, 2] and possibly got boycotted by some other publications for this behaviour. But time seems to heal many wounds and lift embargoes, too. How much can these people get away with really before law enforcers shut them down?

In order to defend itself from antitrust action, Microsoft is said to have also AstroTurfed in ZDNet.

The author of the email, posted on ZDNet in a Talkback forum on the Microsoft antitrust trial, claimed her name was Michelle Bradley and that she had "retired" from Microsoft last week.

"A verbal memo [no email allowed] was passed around the MS campus encouraging MS employee's to post to ZDNet articles like this one," the email said.

"The theme is 'Microsoft is responsible for all good things in computerdom.' The government has no right to prevent MS from doing anything. Period. The 'memo' suggests we use fictional names and state and to identify ourselves as students," the author claimed.


Whether it was true or not, the behaviour lives on to this date. Microsoft employees ("evangelists") market Microsoft products in ZDNet. How about this one from CNET (of Microsoft's co-founder, Paul Allen)?

Microsoft paid for newspaper ads claiming to represent the independent views of 240 academic experts who said the government's antitrust case against the software giant was hurting consumers.

The story "Microsoft secretly paid for ads for Independent Institute" published September 18, 1999 at 5:30 AM is no longer available on CNET News.com.


It's becoming hard to know who to trust. Identifying points of deception and publicising it may be the most effective solution.

"Gates met Noorda briefly in San Francisco to discuss the merger [...] before the merger could go forward, he said Novell had to drop its plans to buy Digital Research. [...] when Noorda raised the possibility that the Justice Department might try to block a merger between the first and third biggest software companies on the planet, Gates responded, "Don't worry, we know how to handle the federal government." [...] Gates denied every saying such a thing"

Source: Bill Gates and the Race to Control Cyberspace

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