#PRFail: FOX News Busted for ‘Sockpuppeting’ on Social Media

Sockpuppeting (v.) – The act of creating a false identity created by trolls and other nefarious ne’er-do-wells via the Internet designed to support posts, forums and PR stories shilling a client’s product or messaging. Typically caught by bad spelling, terrible grammar and tracked IP addresses (you dolts).

Although the definition is created with fun and yuks, the practice is not.

This is an unethical effort in flackdom established by malcontents and other PR professionals that suck at their job. These dunderheads prefer to be anonymous through bearding via Facebook, Twitter or even “Joe from Detroit” commenting online somewhere. And now, we can add FOX News to that austere list of dimwits.

Yes, as in America’s Number One cable news channel. Will network news stoop to any level for ratings? And no, this is not a pseudo-political bent on “Faux” news. Frankly, all network news channels have their immense issues. This is about ethics in the PR workplace.

This is from an NPR report via this new book entitled Murdoch’s World by said network’s media reporter, the great David Folkenflik. In the book (noted below), the trusted FOX News PR team set up these frowned-upon sockpuppet accounts to fill comment sections of “negative or even neutral” blog posts beginning in the mid-oughts with what Folkenflik calls “pro-FOX rants.”

Four former employees have confirmed the practice and even one employee has disclosed creating 20 aliases and another set up 100 sockpuppet accounts.

From page 67 of the highly contested book:

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.

Making more sense to this hack-turned-flack when I see comments like “Hannity rockz,” “You get ’em, OReily” and “Sheppard Smith is so fine.” Although the misspellings are factual, something tells me the most hoarder-esque frow in upstate Montana wouldn’t write those things.

Stay Classy, Rupert.

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