Bonum Certa Men Certa

Federal Trade Commission May Crack Down on Microsoft's Bribery of Bloggers

"I've been thinking long and hard about this, and the only conclusion I can come to is that this is ethically indistinguishable from bribery. Even if no quid-pro-quo is formally required, the gift creates a social obligation of reciprocity. This is best explained in Cialdini's book Influence (a summary is here). The blogger will feel some obligation to return the favor to Microsoft."

--Former Microsoft manager



Summary: FTC to go after schwag tactics

THE FTC may not be the most potent of bodies [1, 2], but it may finally make a move to end the bribing of bloggers. Microsoft is a major culprit [1, 2, 3, 4] and an article about intent to take action specifically mentions Microsoft as an example:



Microsoft, for example, created a wave of bad press a few years ago when it gave free Acer laptops preloaded with Windows Vista to several dozen bloggers.


Microsoft did the same thing to promote Vista 7 and it is currently paying people (in terms of awards) to promote Windows in their blogs and also in social Web sites like Digg and Slashdot. That's not even accounting for the fact that Microsoft pays large publishers like Ziff Davis to promote Windows Vista and it does the same with large shops and OEMs. Even large analyst firms are doing this. We recently spoke about Forrester and out comes another skeptic of their latest smear of Free software.

I won't take InfoWorld to task for how it spins the story; this is news coverage, not an opinion piece. And it's a fair description of how Forrester wants to position its research. (I can't say the same thing about a subsequent InfoWorld blog post that accepts Forrester's conclusions without questioning them.)

This taste leaves most readers hungry for details. How does Forrester define "open source?" Are we talking about desktop applications, server software, or both? Where does Forrester draw the line between enterprises and SMBs -- and how does that distinction blur the inevitable differences between how midsize and small businesses view these issues?


Analysts, like lobbyists (there is overlap), are there to make a buck. Microsoft says that [PDF] “Analysts sell out - that’s their business model…” Gartner is a good example of corruptible analysts and Facebook, with investments from Microsoft, is now turning to the dark side too.

Facebook's newly minted lobbyist used to be one of the company's most formidable adversaries.

As a prominent privacy advocate, Timothy Sparapani, former senior legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, argued that Internet companies have too much control over consumers' data. The self-described "privacy zealot" didn't join Facebook until seven months ago because he was uneasy about revealing personal information on the site.


The FTC has a lot of work to do. Legalised bribery is greater an issue than bribed bloggers.

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