Fox News's astroturfers who defend the network online with armies of fake identities

In his new book Murdoch's World: The Last of the Old Media Empires, NPR's David Folkenflik details how Fox News employees maintain dozens (and, in at least one case, over 100) different message-board accounts that they use to flood the comments of blogs that criticize Fox.

In a chapter focusing on how Fox utilized its notoriously ruthless public relations department in the mid-to-late 00's, Folkenflik reports that Fox's PR staffers would "post pro-Fox rants" in the comments sections of "negative and even neutral" blog posts written about the network. According to Folkenflik, the staffers used various tactics to cover their tracks, including setting up wireless broadband connections that "could not be traced back" to the network.

A former staffer told Folkenflik that they had personally used "one hundred" fake accounts to plant Fox-friendly commentary:

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]

Fox News Reportedly Used Fake Commenter Accounts To Rebut Critical Blog Posts [Ben Dimiero/Media Matters]

(via Techdirt)

Notable Replies

  1. I am OUTRAGED that a legally incorporated, profitable news operation is being ATTACKED in this way!

  2. zhasu says:

    I absolutely agree. It is outrageous, egregious, preposterous!

  3. Why?! Why do you liberal socialists hate america?! We in America have freedom of the press! Freedom to astroturf the HELL out of your opinion!

  4. Seriously, what is this? Why is it whenever there is a post about some egregiously awful (or in this case just drearily pathetic) action by a large institution, there never fails to be a commenter who makes a big dramatic yawn, claims that everyone who is anyone knew that AGES AGO, and implies that it is boring even to be talking about it.

    I swear this happened with every damn post about Wikileaks when it was a thing, it has certainly been a post in the first 5 of every single thing I've ever read about the Snowden leaks.

    As if knowing something is probably true is somehow equal to or sufficient compared to knowing that something is definitely true.

    Seriously, anyone who reads science fiction has probably known or suspected that the NSA was reading and watching everything that happens. But that is very different from KNOWING FOR SURE that it is happening. Because it shouldn't be happening and should be stopped.

    Fox deserves to be publicly humiliated for this childish and silly behaviour. Let's not yawn and pretend their pathetic stupidity was common knowledge and it doesn't matter. Fuck that, let them squirm.

  5. This is actually a documented tactic in trying to depress any feelings of outrage by pretending that it is old news: it tries to keep people from getting energised by arguing that they already missed the boat, that the opportunity to change something has long passed.
    Hint: the moment to get energised and do something is never passed.

    Oh yeah, and extra points for the Nirvana Fallacy argument that since there are enough commenters that will cry foul about moderation, moderation is essentially unhelpful.

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