Fox News has many online critics -- I count myself among them, to the chagrin of at least some regular readers. It also has its supporters. Apparently, though, some of those supporters are about as real as those ousted Wikipedia editors.
According to a new book on Rupert Murdoch, written by NPR media reporter David Folkenflik, Fox's PR team hired people to create hundreds of fake accounts and use them to counter criticism of the 24/7 cable network, going to extreme lengths to hide what they were doing. Per Media Matters:
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.
When you're forced to resort to AOL dial-up, you must be desperate.
Of course, Fox News supporters will argue that as a member of NPR, Folkenflik is at least a competitor, if not a communist, and thus his word should not be trusted. His account sounds eminently plausible to me, but you know what they say: "We report, you decide." I think I read that on a billboard somewhere.
The problem is that on the InterWebs, it's too easy to fake it til you make it -- or until you can fool enough people into thinking you made it. Opportunities are endless, people are gullible, and frankly a lot of us are here for the argument; whether it's fueled by trolls and sock puppets is immaterial.
Personally, I feel Internet trolls should be held accountable and forced to wear their stupid opinions around their necks at all times, and sock puppets deserve to be exposed. By those criteria, it's been a good week for me so far. How about you?
Have you ever faked it? On the Internet, that is? Post your confessions below or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article, "Internet justice is served for Twitter trolls and PR puppets," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, follow Cringely on Twitter, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.