Bonum Certa Men Certa

Some New (But Very Old) Microsoft AstroTurfing Examples

One year ago, due to increased trolling against this Web site, we presented a bunch of incidents where Microsoft got caught poisoning the Web using marketing people in disguise.



This is a reality, not a speculation. Here is another index where some of the following were found. They go a long way back, but they teach us about the present too.

One memorable example is this one.

An ad, titled "Confessions of a Mac to PC convert," was posted to Microsoft's Web site last week. The article purports to be a first-person account of a writer who decided to switch from an Apple Macintosh computer to a PC running Windows XP.


It later turned out that Microsoft had faked it. There was no Mac-to-PC covert. It was fictitious and it was orchestrated by a marketing agency hired by Microsoft (one agency among very many [1, 2, 3]). Remember this when people claim to be GNU/Linux users and slam it endlessly.

Here is another faker:

Microsoft has yanked another of its fraudulent user testimonials, in this case a fictitious twelve-year-old boy raving about a fictional homework assignment and the indespensable insights he received from MS Encarta Reference Library in preparing it.


Some of the all-time favourites reveal just how Microsoft manipulates the media, including CNET, which was mentioned just minutes ago.

The contracts, signed with companies such as Walt Disney, PointCast, and CNN, have received intense scrutiny from federal and state regulators, the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the European Commission. (CNET, publisher of NEWS.COM, also has signed a contract with Microsoft.)


The following report, despite its age (available from the Internet Archive), is worth mentioning too.

Microsoft employee's move against AOL backfires By Melanie Austria Farmer, Staff Writer, CNET News.com August 13, 1999, 9:00 a.m. PT

A Microsoft programmer apparently masqueraded as an independent computer consultant in an effort to discredit America Online's tactics and behavior in its instant messaging battle with Microsoft, according to reports.


The Barkto incidents are not to be forgotten, either. Last but not least, here is the article "MS targets Linux, Mac rivals with IIS astroturf."

In total, we're three-quarters of the way to collecting the full set, from various concerned correspondents, and were whimsically thinking of trading them with you. Can you swap us a Mac OS X vulnerability for a couple of PHP Engine Disable Source Viewing Vulnerabilities? We've lots of those... But most correspondents point out the first two on the list. And almost all such letters continue the theme: "It doesn't matter what system you are running, if you don't keep up to date you will be hit."

Microsoft surely gave an honest answer yesterday, by tacitly accepting that IIS has a unique problem (or combination of problems), that they recognize it, and are taking steps to fix it with a rewrite. But we fear that this kind of Astroturf will continue for a while yet.


There are many more such examples and we shall revisit this in the future.

"Working behind the scenes to orchestrate "independent" praise of our technology, and damnation of the enemy's, is a key evangelism function during the Slog. "Independent" analyst's report should be issued, praising your technology and damning the competitors (or ignoring them). "Independent" consultants should write columns and articles, give conference presentations and moderate stacked panels, all on our behalf (and setting them up as experts in the new technology, available for just $200/hour). "Independent" academic sources should be cultivated and quoted (and research money granted). "Independent" courseware providers should start profiting from their early involvement in our technology. Every possible source of leverage should be sought and turned to our advantage."

--Microsoft, internal document [PDF]



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