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Confirmed by Seattle Times: Microsoft Uses AsttoTurf ('PR') Firms to Deploy Armies of Shills

  • Subject: Confirmed by Seattle Times: Microsoft Uses AsttoTurf ('PR') Firms to Deploy Armies of Shills
  • From: Roy Schestowitz <newsgroups@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 18 Aug 2009 11:03:29 +0100
  • Newsgroups: comp.os.linux.advocacy
  • User-agent: KNode/0.10.9
Hash: SHA1

[From the Seattle Times: "Clients pick an âauthorâ or opt for anonymity.
Visible [Technologies] also has a virtual army â thousands of personas
registered with online forums."]

Summary: Another important cogwheel in Microsoftâs perception management

AS promised in the previous post, today we continue to explore
Microsoftâs âperception managementâ [1, 2]. In short, perception management is
associated with PR techniques of managing brands not just by pushing out
marketing messages but also by tracking (spying on) sources of negativity and
attempting to shoot/shut them down. We too have had visits from
Microsoft âTechnology Evangelistsâ who â without any disclosure â attempted to
annul criticism of products like Vista 7 by mocking the message and the
messenger [1, 2, 3]. It is no secret that Microsoft is gagging critics; being
more or less a PR-reliant company, itâs only to be expected.

Today we take a look at a firm called âVisible Technologiesâ. Its front page
shows Microsoft as a client. âMicrosoft, GM, Hormel, Panasonic are their top
customers,â writes Ryan. They even earned a Gartner award, which may only tie
them to the same Microsoft interests [1, 2, 3, 4] if anything at all. But it
goes deeper than this.

âIâve got some kind of Microsoft PR firm following me now,â writes
Ryan. âTrucastâ or âTruPulseâ is perhaps the culprit. âTheyâre monitoring my
blog,â he argues. âI got a referral hit from them to my post about Windows
Media Center DRMing cable television. I followed it back to some kind of login
page, but I got to looking around the site and it says they do âbrand
managementâ, customers include Microsoft, and their tag is âTheyâre talking
about you, listen, measure, and participateâ; not sure I like the sound of
this. [...] My guess is that their web crawler probably flagged that post and
a human was checking up on it. http://pulse.trucast.net/Listen/54 was the
referral link. [It] doesnât even mention the company that owns it. I had to
google âTruPulseâ to be led back to Visible Technologies.â They should really
be called âInvisible Technologiesâ for being so obscure, even secretive.

According to Visible Technologies, âTruCast channels the right conversations to
the right subject matter experts who can quickly and easily participate in the

It seems like yet another Microsoft-hired PR agency that has spying
methodologies as âproductsâ. One of Waggener Edstromâs (Microsoftâs PR
Department) latest such products is a tool for spying on people in Twitter.
Yes, they are monitoring blogs and Twits and they constantly develop software
to do the spying more effectively. Based on their own promotional videos, they
scan the Web, then check the profiles/messages of people to see if they can be
manipulated. They also keep dossiers on people. As Neighborlee put it, âthey
can fire as many watchdogs as they wishâitâs about staying power at the end of
the day.â

If one takes a closer look at the Web site of Visible Technologies, it soon
emerges that there are more Microsoft connections. According to the
site, âMicrosoft Distinguished Engineer, Bill Baker Joins Visible Technologies
as CTO.â Yes, thatâs him. The reference page says that âBill spent twelve
years at Microsoft, where he directed the companyâs SQL Server Business
Intelligence Unit and was general manager of Business Intelligence
applications for the Microsoft Office Business Platform.â

Business intelligence.

Got it? They mine data, which can be useful for tracking blogs and doing
intelligence. As Microsoftâs evangelism instructionals [PDF] put
it: âGathering intelligence on enemy activities is critical to the success of
the Slog.â

Ryan argues that it âlooks like some sockpuppet organization, run by proxy for
Microsoft.â This argument seems like a big stretch, but then again, ACT also
disguises itself using names of other companies.

Looking at the companyâs board, Ryan argues that âmost of them look like they
were snapped up from small companies Iâve never heard of in Washington state.â
See Rowland Hanson, for example. âRowland is CEO of The HMC Company and
Chairman of CRH & Associates. Prior to consulting, he was Vice President of
Corporate Communications at Microsoft, where he created and executed the
companyâs highly acclaimed branding strategy which included the market
introduction of Microsoftâs most popular productâa graphical interface that he
named âWindows.ââ

âOne of them is from Square Enix and also worked for the Chinese government,â
remarks Ryan. That would be Michelle Goldberg, who is also with the
Microsoft-loaded Ignition Partners. She used to work as an independent
consultant at Microsoft, but the Visible Technologies Web site does not say
this. There are other examples. Ryan brings up âDavid J. Moore, founder of
24/7 real Media, an advertising stat tracker. [...] Lance Maerov, some kind of
dotcom bubble millionaire that blew a bunch of venture capital and ran off
with the money. These are some really bad people.â

For those who wish to see if Visible Technologies and its tracker (TruCast)
drops in for a visit, pulse.trucast.net is, trucast.net is, and visibletechnologies.com is âThey have some low
latency servers too. Looks like theyâre set up to survive some hate traffic.
Theyâre registered with GoDaddy, netblock owner is Qwest,â adds Ryan. âTheyâre
using Windows Server 2008 R2. Thatâs not even released yet, except on MSDN.â

Going a little too closely (although itâs public knowledge), Ryan
persists. â[Address is] Visible Technologies, 401 2nd Avenue S, Suite 101,
Seattle, 98104, United States [...] looks like they have a suite in some
leased out office building [...] Google Street View is a little off, but it
has a picture of the block theyâre on [...] looks like an older stone
building, the entrance says âCourt in the Squareâ. Down the street (to the
south) thereâs a building that says âQwest Fieldâ [...] building is owned by
Commercial Properties International. they have office space for rent, and the
phone number is 622-1010. Thereâs a coffee shop in the northeast corner of
their building called Zeitgeist Coffee. Well, whatever they have there is just
a medium size office building [...] doesnât look like youâd set up a long term
company there [...] looks like it may be the kind of company where they can
pack up the office today and not exist tomorrow,â concludes Ryan.

Speaking of perception management, another reader brought to our attention this
old gem:

    Microsoft Asks Slashdot To Remove Readersâ Posts

    Our friends at Microsoft are upset about some of the readersâ comments
attached to the story, Kerberos, PACs And Microsoftâs Dirty Tricks (posted on
May 2), and would like us to remove those comments from Slashdot. We are not
happy about this, to say the least. But instead of reflexively going into rant
mode, we are calmly posting the full text of the e-mail we got from Microsoft,
along with our initial response to it, so that you can see what news and
community Web sites like Slashdot are up against now that the DMCA has become
law. We are talking to our lawyers, of course, but we would also like your
suggestions on how we should handle this situation.

    From: âJ.K. Westonâ
    To: ââdns_admin@xxxxxxxxxxxââ
    Subject: Notice of Copyright Infringement under the Digitial Millennium
Copyright Act
    Date: Wed, 10 May 2000 07:08:49 -0700
    X-Mailer: Internet Mail Service (5.5.2651.58)

    Andover Advanced Technologies
    50 Nagog Park
    Acton, MA 01720
    Phone: (978) 635-5300
    Fax: (978) 635-5326
    Email: dns_admin@xxxxxxxxxxx; dns_tech@xxxxxxxxxxx

    Dear Internet Service Provider:

    We understand that your website, http://www.slashdot.org, is a popular site
for developers to discuss topical issues of interest. In that vein, it has
come to our attention that there have been numerous posts of concern related
to Microsoftâs copyrighted work entitled âMicrosoft Authorization Data
Specification v. 1.0 for Microsoft Windows 2000 Operating Systemsâ and we
would appreciate your posting this email to the site to help relay our
position to your users.

    This notice is being sent under the provisions, and following the
guidelines, of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (DMCA).

    Included on http://www.slashdot.org are comments that now appear in your
Archives, which include unauthorized reproductions of Microsoftâs copyrighted
work entitled âMicrosoft Authorization Data Specification v.1.0 for Microsoft
Windows 2000 Operating Systemsâ (hereafter âSpecificationâ). In addition, some
comments include links to unauthorized reproductions of the Specification, and
some comments contain instructions on how to circumvent the End User License
Agreement that is presented as part of the download for accessing the

    Although not intended to be an exhaustive representation, the specific
comments below, categorized by corresponding activities, are examples of the
misuse of Microsoftâs proprietary information:

    Comments Containing A Copy of the Specification:
    âby Anonymous Coward on Tuesday, May 02, @03:37PM EST (#197)â
    âby BlueUnderwear on Tuesday, May 02, @04:09PM EST (#239)â
    âby BlueUnderwear on Tuesday, May 02, @04:15PM EST (#248)â
    âby smartin on Tuesday, May 02, @02:20PM EST (#86)â

    Comments Containing Links to Internet Sites with Unauthorized Copies of the
    âby ka9dgx on Tuesday May 02, @2:52PM EST (#133)â

    Comments Containing Instructions on How to Bypass the End User License
Agreement and Extract the Specification:
    âby myconid (my S conid@ P toge A the M r.net) on Tuesday May 02, @07:27PM
EST (#362)â
    âby markb on Tuesday May 02, @05:47PM EST (#321)â
    âby Sami (respect.my@authorita-dot-net) on Tuesday May 02, @01:47PM EST
    âby iCEBalM (icebalm@[NOSPAM]bigfoot.com) on Tuesday May 02, @01:52PM EST
    âby Jonny Royale (moc.mocten.xi@notners) on Tuesday, May 02, @01:59PM EST
    âby rcw-work (rcw@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx) on Tuesday, May 02,
@07:12PM EST (#353)â

    Under the provisions of the DMCA, we expect that having been duly notified
of this case of blatant copyright violation, Andover will remove the above
referenced comments from its servers and forward our complaint to the owner of
the referenced comments.

    This email notification is a statement made under penalty of perjury that
we are the copyright owner of the referenced Specification, that we are acting
in good faith, and that the above-referenced comments, as part of
http://www.slashdot.org, is posting proprietary material without express
written permission.

    We request immediate action to remove the cited violations from Andoverâs
servers, in accordance with the provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright
Act of 1998.

    This email is not intended to waive any of our other rights and remedies.

    Please confirm your receipt of this request by responding to this email.
Also, confirm the status of this request either via email or via the following
contact mechanisms:

    By mail:
    J.K. Weston, Designated Agent
    Microsoft Corporation
    One Microsoft Way, 114/2314
    Redmond, WA 98052
    By phone:
    (425) 703-5529
    By email: jkweston@xxxxxxxxxxxxx


    To: J.K. Westonâ

    From: Robin Miller

    Subject: Notice of Copyright Infringement under the Digital Millennium
Copyright Act

    Dear J. K. Weston:

    Per your request, we are posting your e-mail on this subject on
Slashdot.org to help you relay your position to our users.

    The balance of your e-mailâs content is somewhat puzzling to us. Iâm sure
you agree that freedom of speech is at least as important a principle under
American law as the freedom to innovate, so Iâm sure that you personally, and
Microsoft corporately, will understand our hesitation to engage in censorship.

    Indeed, after reflecting on the nature of freedom for a little while, you
may wish to withdraw your request that we remove readersâ comments from
Slashdot. Please realize that if we censor our readersâs posts because they
contain ideas Microsoft does not wish to have made public, we may set an
unhealthy precedent for other online news outlets and online service
providers, including those owned in whole or in part by Microsoft itself.

    Meanwhile, in case Microsoft does not decide to have a happy change of
heart and support a free and open Internet (which would certainly be in
everyoneâs best interest), we have sought advice both from our attorneys and
from our readers about what, if anything, we should do next.

    Please expect a formal reply to your request that we censor our readersâ
comments, which we allow them to post on Slashdot as freely as Microsoft
allows user-generated content to be sent through Hotmail and through chat
facilities and discussion groups hosted on MSN.com servers, as soon as we
receive wise counsel not only from our attorneys, but also from concerned
members of the Slashdot community and other interested parties.


    - Robin âroblimoâ Miller


Remember how Microsoft successfully removed a negative review of Microsoft
Surface a few months ago. Many such incidents go unnoticed or unannounced. It
makes Microsoft happy. â

âMind Control: To control mental output you have to control mental input. Take
control of the channels by which developers receive information, then they can
only think about the things you tell them. Thus, you control mindshare!â

âMicrosoft, internal document [PDF]

Update: Check out this article from the Seattle Times.

    Clients pick an âauthorâ or opt for anonymity. Visible [Technologies] also
has a virtual army â thousands of personas registered with online forums. 

So, if some blogger criticises a Microsoft product, then Microsoft â via
Visible Technologies â can dispatch an army of shills to counter this blogger.

As one blogger put it âVisible Technologies is Playing with Fireâ.

    Sean reminded me about a local Seattle company called Visible Technologies
that enables organizations to listen and respond to the commentary that is
occurring across blogs, social networks and communities.

    This is a fast growing niche and one that is fun to watch. Organizations of
all types are growing more and more curious about what is being said about
them online â and struggling to respond in the appropriate way. While I have
confidence that Visible will do well as a company, I think they are playing
with fire â the destructive nature of which I hope their clients fully


    I just hope that Visibleâs clients understand the risks before jumping in
too deep. Napalm is dangerous stuff. 

Is it not a violation of the law in some parts of the world?
Version: GnuPG v1.4.9 (GNU/Linux)


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