Bonum Certa Men Certa

Microsoft Takes AstroTurfing to New Levels, Co-opting Grassroots and Bribing People

Summary: How low Microsoft's strategists have stooped, trying to accuse Google of doing what Microsoft does to a much greater degree (colluding with the NSA) and offering bribes for accusations to be made by the public

THE EXTENT of Microsoft AstroTurfing is quite breathtaking. We have already covered examples where Microsoft bribed activists and university professors to smear Google, but this time it's worse than ever before. Microsoft takes a wholesale approach to it.



Co-opting grassroots movements and turning them into AstroTurfing is one strategy which Microsoft is trying to use against Google, in essence turning grassroots -- without anyone's permission -- into some kind of volunteer Microsoft PR workforce.

Let's make it clear that Google is not incapable of doing evil. Some people are upset at Google for all sorts of reasons, some of which are legitimate. When it comes to Google+ there are a lot of complaints, citing threats to privacy. Google+ does not have walled gardens like Facebook but it does use an increasing level of pressure for people to join. It's not the same as forcing them, so in that sense, Facebook is still far worse. Facebook is partly owned by Microsoft and it holds people's data hostage so that they give away huge piles of their private data.

For some, reasons for leaving Google+ are entirely different. As one who has supported us for years put it this month: "I've decided to leave Google Plus, for various reasons, which are roughly as follows:

"1. Not enough original material that interests me

"Most of what's posted on Google Plus is just a combination of Farcebook-style memes/aphorisms and syndicated news articles. The silly aphorisms don't interest me in the slightest, and I don't need to come to G+ just to read the news.

"Joining the chorus of outrage at some shocking news, only holds an appeal for so long, then quickly becomes tiresome, indeed outright depressing. The total amount of actually interesting, original material on here is basically zero, and the level of discourse is ... basic, putting it mildly. There are some exceptions, but they're sadly very rare.

"2. Too many neanderthals

"I've never used Farcebook, but I've been led to believe that the average IQ on here is much higher, along with the general level of morality. That may be true, but there are still far too many low-brow thugs, especially of the gun-wielding libertarian variety.

"I think the root of the problem may be the disproportionately high number of Americans using this service, particularly from the southern states, and I mean that purely as an observation, not an insult per se.

"Our respective cultures are just too alien to be bridged, I'm afraid. I need a more Euro-centric environment, preferably one not filled with right-wing, money-obsessed predators who view everyone else as prey.

"I could (and have) just use the mute/block button, but there comes a point where it's obvious I'm wasting my time. There just aren't enough of my sort of people using this service to make it worthwhile. To the tiny handful who are - my apologies. If only you posted more often.

"3. The technology itself is retarded

"Please excuse my old-fashioned habits, but I come from ye olde world of Usenet, where articles can be retained indefinitely, indexed and searched for later reference. Here, everything is ethereal. The moment you post it, it's gone, and as such is of no value whatsoever, like a fart in the wind.

"Moreover, Usenet has proper, dedicated client software, not this bloated, dysfunctional webby thing that drives me to distraction.

"Google Plus is not so much a forum for serious discussion, as a platform to generate "buzz", which is basically just another way of saying advertising. Well sorry, but I'm not a marketeer, I'm not selling anything, and I have no interest in being an unpaid billboard for Google.

"4. I don't like Google, the company

"In the beginning there was Yahoo! Then it sold out and became a "portal", at which point everyone (including me) ran screaming into the welcoming arms of Google. Eventually it became clear that Google was a "Linux" company, which endeared me to Google quite a bit, given that I'm a Free Software advocate. Then they released Android (technically they assimilated it, and its creator, but I blocked out that inconvenient detail), and I became even further enamoured of Google.

"But between Eric Schmidt's palpable contempt for privacy, and now Edward Snowden's revelations that Google (and others) were complicit in what is possibly the most far-reaching civil rights violation in history, I've had enough. Frankly I'm amazed that I lasted this long.

"So I'm off, and I wont be back.

"I'm going to investigate a few other "social" thingies, like Friendica, Diaspora and GNU Social, but my albeit limited experience of Identi.ca suggests they'll be just like Google Plus, only decentralised, more private, more secure and ... much quieter. Silent, most likely. But at least I won't be prostituting myself to Google and the NSA.

"It was an interesting experiment, but it's over."

I can personally relate to this and I never even thought about joining Google+, but not much of the above has to do with privacy. In fact, Google+ does not hoard so much personal data (compared to Facebook) and it does not spy on people's desktops the way Microsoft does.

The other day we took note of Google's exploitation (newer report in [1]) of Microsoft's death blow to Nokia ("Nokia’s Finland HQ To Become A Microsoft Site Next Year").

Someone from Finland explained that "a followup on the sale of the headquarters" means that Nokia staff gets "kicked out of a building they once owned, perhaps even built" (Nokia's staff which will move to Google may be based near the Russian border, which ought to make the NSA happy).

But here is where it gets interesting. After bribing so many people to demonise Google, including people whom Microsoft paid to edit Wikipedia (the Wikimedia Foundation is starting to treat such abuses seriously), this corrupt monopolist takes its "Scroogled" campaign further by bribing a lot of people to carry campaign slogans. As the British press put it: "If you're bothered by the various ways Google uses the data you submit to its services to serve you targeted ads, then Microsoft has the T-shirt for you. Or a coffee mug, perhaps. You know – stuff that totally isn't ads." And Microsoft pays for this kind of lobbying, too. There is already a reactionary satire with images and it says: "Steve Warner, lead consultant with, ScanStats, said, “Internally, Google had been one of the staunch critics of Microsoft for creating back doors in its products such as Windows or Internet Explorer to make it easy for authorities to take control of citizen’s computers. But I am surprised that Google has gone public with this criticism and started the MicroShaft campaign.”"

Google would not do that. Why? Because Google is not Microsoft. It does not distribute anti-Microsoft merchandise and definitely it won't pay people to carry it around [2]. At Microsoft, however, the rules are different. Bribes are business as usual, as the story of Munich helps remind us. A new report has the details [3] and we ought to remind readers that Microsoft was recently investigated for bribing governments around the world. Shortly thereafter Steve Ballmer said he was leaving Microsoft, perhaps reducing the chances of receiving a jail sentence. At Munich, Ballmer allegedly tried to bribe them. But don't expect Microsoft to have any remorse. Remember this: at Microsoft, bribes are just a way of doing business. No wonder Microsoft is so widely disliked. It deserves this, it is a corrupt company and it continues to show us that nothing ever changed.

Related/contextual items from the news:



  1. Google lifts post-Nokia hopes with Finnish data centre investment
    Google will invest another 450 million euros ($607 million) over the next few years in a data center in Finland, boosting a country struggling with Nokia's decline and weakness in its paper and steel industries.

    Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen welcomed the move, one of the biggest foreign direct investments in Finland, and said the government planned to reduce electricity taxes for data centers to encourage more such stakes.


  2. Googlers Love Microsoft's 'Scroogled' Gear. Mug and Shirts Sell Out.


  3. How Munich rejected Steve Ballmer and kicked Microsoft out of the city
    Breaking up with Microsoft is hard to do. Just ask Peter Hofmann, the man leading the City of Munich's project to ditch Windows and Office in favour of open source alternatives.

    [...]

    The prospect of such a high profile loss, and other organisations following Munich's lead, spurred Microsoft to mount a last ditch campaign to win the authority back. A senior sales executive at the time told general managers in EMEA "under NO circumstances lose against Linux." Steve Ballmer himself took time out of a skiing holiday to make a revised offer in March 2003, followed two months later by Microsoft knocking millions of Euros off the price of sticking with Windows and Office.


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