Bonum Certa Men Certa

The FTC Should Bite AstroTurfers, Not Just Bark at Them

US Capitol



Summary: FTC reiterates threat to AstroTurfing activities, but still fails to police anything based on its newly-ratified rules

THE FTC is one of those publicly-funded institutions that give people the feeling that the government is in control and always protects the collective interests of the citizens. Like the FCC and the Federal Reserve, their use of words is very witty and "Federal" comes to imply that it is purely federal, but in reality the control is reserved by companies like Microsoft and other conflicting interests (people move back and forth between commerce and governance/regulation).



The many complaints to the FCC mean nothing at all unless they are filed at a high volume like hundreds or thousands, based on experience.

Upon filing a complaint against Microsoft AstroTurfing, for instance, the FTC responded with a formal letter, but has not taken any real action. They told us that they expect more similar letters before they take action and mass-mailing of letters is Microsoft's expertise; it hires de facto AstroTurfing agencies like CAGW and ACT to carry out this job. In their terms, this it called "lobbying". Microsoft uses the strategy not only to affect public policy and not just to review products but to also troll opposition. There are many examples that are well documented.

The FTC is once again reciting old news about cracking down on AstroTurfers. Here is the report hosted by Microsoft's 'news' site [1, 2].

The Federal Trade Commission will require bloggers to clearly disclose any freebies or payments they get from companies for reviewing their products.


Our reader Goblin wrote this post in relation to Microsoft, which is currently AstroTurfing in Twitter.

You may remember me reporting a while ago that the FTC were looking into bloggers and their “independent” views which are as a result of freebies or gifts. You may remember that we have exposed these gift receivers before and rightly ask “How much worth can you put into the words of someone receiving gifts?“

In my opinion much pro-proprietary software opinion is based on gifts (or the possibility of recieving them) and since the personal blog is looked at a whole lot differently than a mainstream news outlet, its even more important that the views in a blog are those of honest held belief.

[...]

Anyone found to be not disclosing could be liable for a fine of up to $11,000. This, in my opinion is something which is long overdue. I’ve said before that the personal blog holds alot more weight (IMO) than the PR sheets or mainstream features of the latest hardware/software.


It did not take long for one of Microsoft's potential AstroTurf accounts to react to the above and there is more coverage at TechDirt and Ars Technica.

The FTC has announced new rules governing "consumer-generated" media outlets and product endorsements. Bloggers who fail to disclose their relationships with manufacturers and advertisers face five-digit fines.


Here is the original message from the FTC:

A bunch of folks have been sending in the fact that the FTC has (as was widely expected) approved new rules on "endorsements" or "testimonials," including a section on bloggers or "word-of-mouth marketers."


Some of Microsoft's PR agencies use illegal tactics. Microsoft outsources its AstroTurfing activities, so the FTC should start with these agencies. The stated fine is $11,000 per post, so given what Microsoft does for Vista 7, for instance, Microsoft would theoretically go bankrupt had these rules been applied and truly enforced.

"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]

Comments

Recent Techrights' Posts

Delayed Series About Dr. Richard Stallman
A lot of the attacks on him boil down to petty things
A 3-Year Campaign to Coerce/Intimidate Us Into Censorship: Targeting Several Webhosts (in Collaboration and Conjunction With Mentally-Ill Flunkies)
Every attempt to nuke the current hosting failed, but it's still worth noting
Google: We Don't Have Source Diversity, But We Have Chatbot Spew in Place of Sources (and It's Not Even Accurate)
Search engines and news search never looked this bad...
[Meme] Security is Not a Failure to Boot (or Illusion of Security Due to 'Unknown' System)
Red Hat is largely responsible for this mess
What is Secure Boot?
Security means the user feels safe and secure - i.e. confident that the machine would continue to work following a reboot or a system upgrade (or kernel upgrade)
Links 27/05/2024: Chatbots Generate Hateful Output, TPM Performance Scrutinised
Links for the day
 
Links 28/05/2024: Back to MP3, NVIDIA Sued by Authors
Links for the day
Gemini Links 28/05/2024: Bad Beach and TLS
Links for the day
Microsoft Windows Fell From 100% to Just 7.5% in Sierra Leone
Based on statCounter
In Benin, Microsoft's Windows Fell Below 10%, GNU/Linux Surged to 6% or Higher on Desktops/Laptops
That's nearly 7% - a lot higher than the average in Africa
Over at Tux Machines...
GNU/Linux news for the past day
IRC Proceedings: Monday, May 27, 2024
IRC logs for Monday, May 27, 2024
[Meme] Elephant in the Asian Room
With ChromeOS included GNU/Linux is at 6% across Asia
GNU/Linux in Bangladesh Up From 0.5% to Over 4% (Windows Slid From 95% to 18%)
Bangladesh is one of the world's most densely-populated countries
Links 27/05/2024: One Month Left for ICQ, More Openwashing Highlighted
Links for the day
Gemini Links 27/05/2024: Back to GNU/Linux, Librem 5 Assessed
Links for the day
StatCounter (or statCounter) Has Mostly Recovered From a Day's Downtime (Malfunction)
Some of the material we've published based on the statCounter datasets truly annoys Microsofters
StatCounter (or statCounter) Has Been Broken for Nearly 24 Hours. Who Benefits? Microsoft.
StatCounter is broken right now and has been broken for nearly 24 hours already
David Heinemeier Hansson (DHH) Realises What He Should Have Decades Ago
seeing that DHH is moving away from Apple is kind of a big deal
Reinvigorating the Voice of GNU/Linux Users (Not Companies Whose Chiefs Don't Even Use GNU/Linux!)
Scott Ruecker has just announced his return
"Tech" in the Context of Even Bigger Issues
"Tech" (or technology) activism is important; but there's a bigger picture
A Decade of In-Depth Coverage of Corruption at the European Patent Office (EPO)
The world needs transparency and sunlight
Hopefully Not Sunset for StatCounter
We hope that StatCounter will be back soon.
Over at Tux Machines...
GNU/Linux news for the past day
IRC Proceedings: Sunday, May 26, 2024
IRC logs for Sunday, May 26, 2024
Links 27/05/2024: Self-Publishing, Patent Monopolies, and Armed Conflicts
Links for the day
Gemini Links 27/05/2024: Tethering Connection and PFAs
Links for the day
Imagine Canada Enabling Rapists to Harass Their (Rape) Victims
This analogy is applicable because abusers are empowered against the abused
A 3-Year Campaign to Coerce/Intimidate Us Into Censorship: Targeting My Old "Tweets"
This was basically an act of vandalism no better and no worse than UEFI restricted boot
Links 26/05/2024: Google 'Search' Morphing Into Disinformation Factory, Discussion of Maze of the Prison Industrial Complex
Links for the day
In the Pacific (Mostly Islands Around Oceania) GNU/Linux Grew a Lot
Microsoft cannot compete fairly
A Toast to Tux Machines
Food ready for the party, no photos yet...
IBM/Red Hat Failing to Meet Its WARN Obligations in NC (STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA), or Perhaps It's Constantly Delaying the Layoffs
IBM isn't named even once
Over at Tux Machines...
GNU/Linux news for the past day
IRC Proceedings: Saturday, May 25, 2024
IRC logs for Saturday, May 25, 2024
GNU/Linux in Greenland
The sharp increases for GNU/Linux started last summer
The Sheer Absurdity of the EPO's Career System Explained by EPO Staff
"Staff representation has previously pointed this out to management, and the career system has been the reason for several industrial actions and litigation cases initiated by SUEPO."
[Meme] Productivity Champ Nellie Simon: It Takes Me 3+ Weeks to Write 6 Paragraphs
Congrats to Nellie Simon!
It Took EPO Management 3+ Weeks to Respond to a Letter About an Urgent Problem (Defunding of EPO Staff)
The funny thing about it is that Nellie Simon expects examiners to work day and night (which is illegal) while she herself takes 3+ weeks to write a 1-page letter
Staff Union of the EPO (SUEPO) in The Hague Taking Action to Rectify Cuts to Families of Workers
they "are active in challenging this measure via the legal system"