Bonum Certa Men Certa

Microsoft, Ask, and the AstroTurf Against Yahoo! Remembered

Dark question



Summary: Rumours and speculations about Microsoft and expansion into Ask.com; the brutal story about Microsoft's moral corruption in the fight against Yahoo! makes a sudden return

THIS morning we wrote about Carl Icahn, who had helped destroy Yahoo!, thus making it a zombie state of Microsoft. Whilst antitrust barriers remain [1, 2, 3, 4], speculation has been spreading that Microsoft might be interested in Ask.com, leading to further enthusiasm in the Microsoft circles.



Since IAC/InterActiveCorp CEO Barry Diller indicated on Tuesday that he's willing to sell Ask.com, the question on many people's minds has been, "Who might buy it?" And at this point, the most likely answer seems to be "Microsoft."


It may be a suitable time to recall how Microsoft used AstroTurfing (yes, for a verifiable fact, plain and simple) to capture Yahoo! and prevent Yahoo! from escaping to Google, for example. A new article from Ars Technica reminds us of a memorable incident where Microsoft got caught hiring AstroTurf agencies:

The Arizona Supreme Court has ruled that the metadata attached to public records is itself a public record. Given the frequency with which metadata outs lobbyists' and corporations' efforts to mask their own contributions to public debates, this is a good thing.

[...]

The very next month, the tables were turned when the American Corn Grower's Association somewhat surprisingly threw its weight behind the idea that Congress should launch a hearing to look into the possible anti-trust implications of the Google-Yahoo advertising deal. CNET's Declan McCullagh took a look at the PDF letter that the group submitted to Congress, and found that it had been authored by a staffer at the LawMedia Group, a DC lobbying shop whose client list includes the anti-Google, anti-net neutrality National Cable and Telecommunications Association.


We alluded to the LawMedia Group under (in chronological order):



Metadata, in addition to the valuable leak, would have assisted in exposing another Microsoft AstroTurf group -- one which affects Europe. We gave examples of its activities in:



A new Web site called OpenUpNow.org is trying to help the exposition of lobbyists and corruptible politicians. In its blog, examples are being given today:

Newspapers occasionally report that votes have been declared “three-line whips” by particular parties. Here are just a few reported examples:

* In 2002, the Conservative party imposed a three-line whip forcing their MPs to oppose the adoption of children by gay couples. * In 2007, both Labour and the Conservatives imposed three-line whips in favour of a proposal to renew Britain’s nuclear weapons system, Trident. * In 2008, the Liberal Democrats imposed a three-line whip which instructed their MPs to abstain on a vote to ratify the EU’s Lisbon Treaty. * In 2009, Labour imposed a three line whip in favour of a vote to keep the full detail of MPs expenses secret from the public.



Those who rule out lobbying and politics, leaving it out of the equation and simply assuming that Free software will be chosen based on merits, ought to wake up and see what giants like Microsoft are doing.

"Geeks like to think that they can ignore politics, you can leave politics alone, but politics won't leave you alone."

--Richard Stallman

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