Fox News PR Department Waged War on Critical Bloggers With Sock Puppet Accounts

NPR reporter David Folkenflik’s new book Murdoch’s World accuses Fox News’ PR department of using scores of fake commenter accounts to challenge negative – even neutral – articles in the blogosphere on Fox News. Employees were even expected to challenge other negative comments on the same posts, a tactic shared with unhinged stalkers, trolls and basement dwellers the world over.

Via Media Matters:

On the blogs, the fight was particularly fierce. Fox PR staffers were expected to counter not just negative and even neutral blog postings but the anti-Fox comments beneath them. One former staffer recalled using twenty different aliases to post pro-Fox rants. Another had one hundred. Several employees had to acquire a cell phone thumb drive to provide a wireless broadband connection that could not be traced back to a Fox News or News Corp account. Another used an AOL dial-up connection, even in the age of widespread broadband access, on the rationale it would be harder to pinpoint its origins. Old laptops were distributed for these cyber operations. Even blogs with minor followings were reviewed to ensure no claim went unchecked.  [Murdoch's World, pg. 67]

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  • Ted Heistman

    I wonder if I ever argued a sock puppet into submission back in the day…

    • Tuna Ghost

      probably not

    • Simon Valentine

      i’d wager that most of your readers won’t notice that sub-mission, as a word as is, does not entail any change of plans on part of the sock puppeteer, but it’d be an unfair bet…

      for instance, a happy little game of starcraft has mostly consisted of macro for the past 5 minutes, when all of a sudden … MICRO

      this mission
      just got subs

      *drop the bass*

      peeps?
      do you even sub?

  • Jonas Planck

    I told you they were real. They said I was insane… that the idea of PR sockpuppeting was a “tinfoil hat theory,” and that I needed to “take my meds.” … trolls are a nuisance, but astroturfers are the enemies of human thought. I will not relent against them, nor will I pretend they don’t exist. I have seen too much to turn back now.

    • Liam_McGonagle

      I don’t disagree with your impulse, but inherent in your idea seems [to me] the notion that public opinion has some sort of integrity which requires a vigorous defence, a conclusion that I find hard to sustain.

      • Liam_McGonagle

        My idea is that one or the other of the following conditions apply:

        1.) Public opinion means absolutely nothing to policy makers, so an accurate reading would have no more implication than a false one

        2.) If public opinion is so fickle and malleable as to be swayed by an unsourced anonymous online poster it is de facto worthless. Better off going route #1

        • Simon Valentine

          i hear a “it’s to late to repair the state”

          (i know! that scruff is such a kicker! isn’t he great?!?)

      • Jonas Planck

        Public opinion has a great deal of effect on policy, as democracy (or demagoguery, as it should more accurately be called) requires public support to appear valid. Or at least, the ILLUSION of public support. But what good is such support (or opposition,) if it’s completely fabricated? Bots, as I call them, serve the dual purpose of putting up a false front for quote miners and propagandists that seek validation of their dogma, and they simultaneously throw into doubt the opinions of everyone else for those who are more interested in truth than confirmation bias.
        Yes, public opinion SHOULD be taken with a grain of salt, but the ideals of our civilization bind us to such opinions. Whether or not there is any integrity there, we are stuck with the consequences.

  • Anarchy Pony

    Sock puppets, the lowliest of the low among internet dwellers.

  • echar

    I am currently looking for work. I assume this kind of thing pays. I am willing to sell my soul for a pittance.

    Any how, I am usually suspicious of any one dimensional commentor. The ones that pop up out of no where, consistently defending that one topic. also the over the top over compensators catch my eye as well.

    Although it seems counter intuitive for faux news to use sock puppets. Anyone who’s already a fan is probably stuck that way. Anyone against them would only have their resolve strengthened by a lukewarm or transparent attempt at swaying opinion. Maybe to further entrench the pro faux news commenters not in the know?

  • Simon Valentine

    uh, how many laws does that break? Fox? Fox are you there?

    • notcreastive

      None probably

      • Simon Valentine

        nah mate, not “how many charges will [sic] be convicted of”

        “how many laws does it break?”

        • notcreastive

          Final answer is still none

          • Jonas Planck

            …Unless you count the CFAA, which is so vaguely worded as to make the entire internet illegal, and more pertinently, FCC regulations that require disclosure for all sponsored content.

            … NON-ATTORNEY SPOKESMAN, BITCHES!

  • BuzzCoastin

    2/3 of all internet comments are made by sock puppets
    1/3 by meat puppets

    • MrGrim

      Mmm… Tasty, tasty meat puppets…

  • Tuna Ghost

    I knew I was seeing a suspicious number of Fox News supporters on NPR’s blog stuff

  • jasonpaulhayes

    How can a nation funded and controlled by corporations possibly regulate them? It cant, you have to destroy them by pulling the weakest of supports out from under them and #occupytheruins

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