Free Press Caught Forging/Astroturfing on Net Neutrality Letter
A few months back, Tim Karr challenged the readers of Huffington Post to join in his crusade against Astroturf. In the post, he identified four people (I was one of them) as astroturfers.
For those unfamiliar, astroturfing is a charge frequently thrown around in political fights. Depending on who you ask, the definitions can vary wildly. For some, astroturf is simply the act of being paid to speak out on an issue. That is the crime Tim accused me of, though he failed to demonstrate who was paying me despite my offer of $1,000 for proof.
For others, astroturf is creating the appearance of a grassroots movement where none actually exists. It is this latter definition that becomes fairly important today.
According to an article in The Daily Caller today, groups that Free Press listed as signatories to its pro-net neutrality agenda not only didn’t sign it, but had no recollection of ever being asked.
People working with groups like the Dr. Pepper Museum and Operation Catnip were asked why they support net neutrality. They could offer no explanation as to how their names, and those of their organizations came to be on the letter. This article comes on the heels of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation making a specific request to be removed from the letter after it found itself as an unwitting signatory.
Free Press has previously “outed” groups for allegedly astroturfing on telecom policy issues. It’s not clear what explanation they will offer for their astroturfing, but I, for one, would be curious to see how many signers of their past letters have no idea that they were included.
As for the Huffington Post, I will post this so its readers can judge for themselves. I have fully disclosed my employment and my viewpoint. Will Free Press fully disclose whose names they have signed to letters without their knowledge or consent?
I weigh in on telecom policy issues because it is a subject I care about, and because I feel the government should not get involved in regulating anything as important as the Internet. But at least I know I weighed in. It is unfortunate that those speaking on behalf of Free Press don’t even know they are doing so.