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Free Press Caught Forging/Astroturfing on Net Neutrality Letter

By 7 July 2010 16 Comments

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.

16 Comments »

  • Reactor said:

    “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.”

    Don’t you think it’s relevant for people to know that, as part of your caring, you have flacked for Big Telecom and the Chamber of Commerce? I do.

  • The Free Press and Its Unwitting Accomplices on Net Neutrality | Little Miss Attila said:

    [...] The next level, after you can’t get support, or manufacture it, is to simply make it up. [...]

  • Tech at Night: Sunlight, Free Press | MorallyRight.org said:

    [...] Digital Society » Blog Archive » Free Press Caught Forging … [...]

  • Michael Turk (author) said:

    Reactor –

    I have never worked for the Chamber of Commerce or either of the two wireline phone companies. I have worked for the cable industry, which is why I fully disclose that in my bio here, on my company’s website, on my personal blog, at Huffington Post, and everywhere else I write.

    Art Brodsky at Free Press Public Knowledge used to work for Qwest, and apparently only joined Public Knowledge when he couldn’t get hired elsewhere in the industry.

    Does he disclose that? No.

    But the larger point is a) my opinions are my own, and b) I don’t claim to speak for anyone else, or use their name without their permission. Which is exactly what Free Press did.

  • Reactor said:

    You worked for Grassroots Enterprise and are a principal in Craft Media Digital. Did you work for the cable industry or the Chamber of Commerce as clients, or have anything to do with landing them, at either of those places? The Internet is full of stealth corporate spammers. How about yourself? One of them?

  • Reactor said:

    Something else. You wrote that “Art Brodsky at Free Press used to work for Qwest, and apparently only joined Public Knowledge when he couldn’t get hired elsewhere in the industry.”

    1. What evidence do you have that Brodsky joined Public Knowledge when he couldn’t get hired elsewhere in the industry?

    2. If your accusation is true, how is it relevant?

  • Michael Turk (author) said:

    Reactor –

    Sorry, Art Brodsky should have been associated with Public Knowledge in my comment. That was an error.

    As for the comment, I was merely pointing out the double standard that I have to disclose past work, but he somehow does not.

    As for the Chamber, I have never worked for them and had nothing to do with them being clients at either Grassroots or CRAFT. They were not even a client of Grassroots when I was there. They became a client long after I left.

    As for CRAFT, they have been a client of one of the other partners for years. I have only one connection to the Chamber, and that is the wife of my wife’s cousin who happens to work there.

    I have been more than honest about my employment (going so far in reaction to Tim’s HuffPo piece to list every job I’ve had since high school).

    How about you? You’re posting under a pseudonym. Who do you represent?

  • F.J. Bergmann said:

    I rarely post comments about anything, but it seems entirely possible that a third party or parties added fake endorsements, rather than Free Press astroturfing itself. I’m assuming that this would not be difficult to do, and that verification would be excessively tedious.

  • Left-wing Media Regulation Group Sees ‘Astroturf’ Everywhere Except in Mirror « Internet Freedom Coalition said:

    [...] net neutrality of being a corporate tool, much of the time sans any sort of evidence, whatsoever. Michael Turk of Digital Society offered Karr $1,000 for proof that he was an astroturfer. One June 30, The Daily [...]

  • Reactor said:

    “How about you? You’re posting under a pseudonym. Who do you represent?”

    I represent absolutely no one but myself. I was once a telecommunications analyst, both for an operator of pension and mutual funds, and for an investment bank. Along the way, I picked up a lot of knowledge of the industry, but (fortunately) never had to be in the position of lying, flacking, or shilling for anyone. Really, there were some independent analysts out there, and I was one of them.

    I have been retired for a number of years, and have no financial ties to anyone with a dog in the fight. My independence doesn’t make me right, but it does make me independent. I am deeply skeptical of anyone whose paycheck depends on taking anyone’s side on an issue. If there is one thing I learned on “the Street,” it’s this: People work for who pays them. I was lucky to have worked for people who paid me to tell the truth.

    I use a pseudonym because I see no relevance or advantage to anyone if I were to give my actual name. If you want to use all of this to launch an ad hominem attack on my credibility, go ahead. It’ll say a whole lot more about you than it could ever say about me.

  • Michael Turk (author) said:

    Reactor,

    Regarding your statement, “If there is one thing I learned on “the Street,” it’s this: People work for who pays them”, I would completely disagree with that. My experience in nearly 20 years of politics is that money tends to follow opinion, not the other way around.

    Would I take money from Verizon or AT&T if they felt the need to pay me? Sure. But it wouldn’t at all change what I am saying, and they would likely be doing so because of what I was saying, not in spite of it. I have rarely ever seen a group hire someone to be a spokesperson (disclosed or not) because that person held a contrary position or view.

    I am a vocal supporter of free markets, and think the government tends to screw up 99% of what it touches. That belief system tends to align with business a lot of the time.

    If you want to question my ideology, and challenge it on the merits, that’s fine. I have a lot of friends on the left and we have a great many arguments along that line. I am more than prepared to defend that belief system.

    But trying to discredit someone as a shill is simply the argument of a weak intellect. It’s even worse when, as Free Press did, you then get caught engaging in the same behavior.

    It has been my experience that people are unlikely to shill for someone they disagree with philosophically just because of a check. I’ve seen people try, and they usually end up with horrible reputations and a different line of work.

  • Digital Society » Blog Archive » Regarding Astroturf said:

    [...] }); }In the comments of another post, a reader calling himself Reactor made the following comment: If there is one thing I learned on [...]

  • Reactor said:

    “Regarding your statement, ‘If there is one thing I learned on the Street,” it’s this: People work for who pays them,’, I would completely disagree with that. My experience in nearly 20 years of politics is that money tends to follow opinion, not the other way around.”

    —————

    We will have to disagree. Most of the opinions I see out there, both in the established media and online, are bought and paid for. There is less and less independence every day. This site is an example. All of its commentators represent a right-wing, big business viewpoint, coming from people who make their living representing right-wing corporations.

  • Michael Turk (author) said:

    And a site like Free Press exists to provide the other side of the story. The banner on this site proclaims it to be both pro-culture, but also pro-commerce.

    If that seems confusing and you thought you were misled about the pro-business take we all share, I’m sorry that tagline wasn’t sufficient to let you know what you would be walking into.

  • Reactor said:

    “The banner on this site proclaims it to be both pro-culture, but also pro-commerce.”

    If you were being honest, the banner would say, “Proudly serving the interests of the telecommunications giants since 20xx.” Commerce and culture have nothing to do with your mission. This site exists for one reason: To shill for big company p.r. clients, current and future prospective.