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Forum Post: Private Equity Firm Unleashes Sockpuppets On Forums To Spread Lies About #OWS

Posted 12 years ago on Oct. 29, 2011, 5:16 p.m. EST by Alerto (6) from Hull, MA
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

OK, so I am a photographer. I am on this site which is for modeling/fashion industry. I use it when I need to hire a model for a shoot. It also has a social networking forum.

I, and others, have noticed that the situation there is such that the moderators delete posts and ban users who are too supportive of #OWS. Also, that an oddly large number of their posters continue to propagate 1%er lies. As if reading from the same script.

Examples - Posting the myth that all the tents at #OWS are really empty; posting that Scott OIsen was actually attacked by #OWS to make a martyr for the movement, the bombing of #occupymaine was done by "fellow liberals" and that #OWS is planning some massive, brutal attack against ordinary citizens. Etc.

Anyone who countered was likely to get banned and have their posts killed if they made too good an argument, or embarrassed certain people.

Anywho, another day on the Internet, right?

Not quite. I did some research. The site (www.modelmayhem.com) is owned and run by Internet Brands. Internet Brands is owned by a private equity firm - Hellman & Friedman.

They have spent $240,000 KNOWN dollars lobbying for deregulation. http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/clientsum.php?id=D000034411&year=2011

Unknown is the usual SuperPAC money, etc.

This begs the question as to what is going on here. Have the 1%ers taken to using sockpuppets to spread their lies?

Probably. The government is doing it. http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2011/mar/17/us-spy-operation-social-networks

Proposed - We crowdsource more investigation into this issue with IB. See what is up. In theory, this could just be a site moderator with a grudge against the left. But, these forums are not widely known to be run by these equity funds. People think it is just run out of someone's house and it is setup to appear that way. Thus giving more credibility to the "average Joe" posters. In essence it is cyber-astroturfing.

So, we research and investigate IB now, and then move towards action. People need to be educated about these sites. Also, site boycotts, etc should be examined.




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[-] 1 points by Nevada1 (5843) 12 years ago

Hi Alerto, Thank you for good post. Best Regards, Nevada

[-] 1 points by yasminec001 (584) 12 years ago

Yup. Humans are unpredictable.

[-] 1 points by Alerto (6) from Hull, MA 12 years ago

Here is some more research I have done on the general issue of corporate/political sockpuppets being used to change the dialogue of the country.

I point you to this excellent work by Gawker - http://gawker.com/5826960 Basically, Newt Gingrich purchased close to one million fake Twitter accounts by some estimations. He then used his number of Twitter followers as a way to get on the "recommended" list, and to crow about how popular he is.

And buying Twitter followers is VERY easy as a search shows - http://www.google.com.ar/search?sourceid=mozclient&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&q=how+to+buy+twitter+followers

What is interesting here is the possible mechanism at play.

In recent years, the Libertarian movement has been co-opted by the GOP. This is a fact, as many "libertarians" now run under the GOP banner, but also take very non-Libertarian views on anything outside the economy. Example - Sarah Palin. Claims to embrace "Libertarian values," yet refuses to allow gay marriage. The ACTUAL Libertarian Party has been for marriage equality since the 1980s! And this is a philosophically consistent view. Unlike Palin's.

The co-opting of libertarianism by far-right politicians was the start of a seemingly growing trend. The concept is to manipulate the dialogue of a group or movement and push it towards the far-right agenda. Essentially making said group/movement a quisling organization. I like to call this "quissing."

Quissing in very expensive and hard to do in the real world. It requires a large amount of funds, and a lot of groundwork. It is far easier to do via electronic methods. Especially since anonymity is helpful.

Many of the co-opters of the Libertarian movement were unknown to the public when they started up, but well known in GOP circles. It is far easier after all for someone to accept the opinion of a fellow citizen, than from a known political operative. Especially in the case of the GOP. At the time, there was no love for anyone like Carl Rove. Plus, a sudden swap to a Libertarian philosophy would seem very odd. Far better to have an unknown speak up and say, "These GOPers follow our philosophy...."

Which is what happened.

This strategy then, very logically, reveals itself to be easily adapted to the Internet. Quissing is far easier to do, since it can be done easily and anonymously, and one agent can pretend to be a multitude of people.

All one has to do, is get on some forums and start pushing their view. When the Quisser is challenged, they can simply call in backup to make their position look like the rational and popular one. It also allows them to flood a site with their view. Suspected Quissers that I have found seem to all be very voracious posters in political threads on forums, but missing all together in non-political ones. If you flood the land up to the horizon, then the whole world will think itself drowned.

Now, the drawback to Quissing is that on an independent site, the operators of said site might simply ban you as a troll. Quissing is, in a very real way, related to trolling and the extremists who engage in it (for it is an extremist act), tend to get rather nasty in their denunciation of others.

Solution? Buy the site. I call this "Foxing," after Murdoch and his philosophy. Which is to buy the media so you can control the media.

Internet Brands owns 95 websites and gets around 62 million unique visitors a month. That is a big number. And they, and the private equity firm that runs them, are 100% in control of any content that shows up there.

Now, I am not claiming that IB was founded to start Foxing the Internet. But here is the thing about Quissing and Foxing -

It can evolve naturally out of the current business models and the current marketing climate.

When a company finds themselves in possession of a large number of media outlets or websites, and they are also facing a political and social backlash in their industry, Quissing becomes a "no-brainer." It is the logical extension of corporate control. You are the OWNER of the dialogue, therefore, you should also CONTROL it. Businesses HATE not having control. It is anathema to their very existence.

And once a company starts Quissing, they then naturally tend towards Foxing as not only a natural part of company growth, but as a method for gaining more ground in the Quissing battle they are waging.

As move forwards, we must all be aware that despite our instinctual urge to assume every poster on the Internet is a separate individual, there is no assurance of this. In fact there is a very real likelihood that the political dialogue on any given website is under a Quissing attack.

And should that website be owned by a large corporation, the chances of Quissing goes up dramatically.

[-] 1 points by eidos (285) 12 years ago

Thanks for this post. Very good work on the fact gathering.

[-] 1 points by Alerto (6) from Hull, MA 12 years ago

No problem. As I do reasearch, it seems that sockpuppets may be increasingly common on the Internet.

[-] 1 points by Alerto (6) from Hull, MA 12 years ago

Bumping for justice!

[-] 1 points by SteafanDubhuidhe (1) 12 years ago