Posts Tagged ‘wikileaks’

Two Great Examples of the Age of Radical Transparency: iPhone 5 Leak and Gary Dell’Abate Smear Email

February 28, 2011 Leave a comment
Stamford Advocate Gary Dell'Abate Articles Compared

Stamford Advocate Gary Dell'Abate Articles Compared

I try to warn people I consult with about public relations and online reputation management to behave and do business as though their conduct could end up on Wikileaks … because it could.

Two great examples highlight how porous the walls of any organization now are as a result of the Internet and social media:

Apple iPhone 5 / iPad 2 Design Leaks

Apparent iPhone 5 Faceplate From iDealsChina

There are so many ways information can find its way through the walls that organizations work hard to keep impenetrable.  This photo of the iPhone 5 faceplate went public after it was published on the website iDealsChina after it was apparently leaked from a manufacturer of the component.

Similar revelations were disclosed by another Chinese source for Apple’s proposed iPad 2.

Elsewhere many other details (including specifications) have gone public, and who can forget Apple having police break the door of Gizmodo employee Jason Chen’s residence to retrieve a prototype of the 4G iPhone after it was inadvertently left at a bar by an employee.

Smear Campaign Against Gary Dell’Abate of the Howard Stern Show

Listeners to the Howard Stern Show are likely aware that Producer Gary “Baba Booey” Dell’Abate is currently embroiled in a conflict over his appointment to a local advisory role for his local Greenwich, Connecticut Board of Parks and Recreation Board.  His employer has become a point of criticism for one of the members of the Appointment Committee, who has resorted to increasingly bizarre tactics (like carrying around a bag of feces ostensibly left on her porch by an apparent Stern Show fan).

Local newspaper the Stamford Advocate received an email from someone calling himself “Michael Obrien” who lobbed a number of libelous accusations at Dell’Abate, including that he hired prostitutes for the show.  In spite of being unable to verify Obrien’s identity, the newspaper printed the accusations.  Now they’ve retracted the original version of the story and republished a new version sanitized of the defamatory content.  The problem for the Stamford Advocate is that Google’s cache has preserved the original version, so you can view it in its libel-filled entirety here.

Even if the article hadn’t been cached by Google, anyone subscribed to the Stamford Advocate’s RSS feed would have an intact copy of the original article saved in their feed reader.

It gets worse for the Greenwich Town Government: according to Dell’Abate, a tech-savvy listener was able to track the email account (which was created 20 minutes before the email was sent) back to its original IP address which originated from the Greenwich Town Government offices.

That means an employee of the Township is behind the smear, and the “Howard 100 News” team is likely going to root out more details that won’t play well for the local government entity.  It should be easy to track the email back to the node on the Township’s network and identify the employee workstation from which it was sent (information that can be obtained via a Freedom of Information Act by the Stern Show’s news team).

Bias on NPR – but not the Kind You’d Expect

December 12, 2010 1 comment

The Way the Telecom "Monster Truck" Metaphor Actually Looks

On the way into work a week or two ago, I heard a report on the current state of the Net Neutrality debate in Washington in an NPR store done by Joel Rose (“Midterm Elections May Hinder Net Neutrality”).

The Net Neutrality Debate

The Net Neutrality issue is one I’m passionate about, and as a public relations pro – I’m acutely aware of how the telecommunications corporations are spinning the issue.  “Spin” is the appropriate term because they’re using Luntz-esque semantics to diminish the public’s understanding of what is being proposed.  In this particular case, rather than address net neutrality on its merits, they’re seeking to gain traction for their position by focusing on a minute detail of the events unfolding in Washington at the FCC.

Here’s the train of logic:

  1. Net Neutrality is Popular: They know that the public is overwhelmingly satisfied with how Net Neutrality is working; it is a democratizing force that grants power to consumers/citizens at the same time it limits the power of governments/corporations.
  2. More Regulation is Not: The public has an overwhelmingly negative perception of the legislature and the government in general, and also of the idea of more laws/regulation.  (This is the angle they’re appealing to the Tea Party movement with).
  3. Formally Enshrining Net Neutrality = “More Regulation”: Rather than present the case for allowing telecommunications companies to nullify Net Neutrality, they’re presenting their case as “don’t regulate” or “we don’t need more government interference.”

This meme is at work and can be observed in a recent poll commissioned by “Broadband for America” – an industry front group funded by (among others) AT&T, Verizon and Comcast.  It falsely presented the question of Net Neutrality as ‘new government regulation’.  You can read their press release here (where they, of course, don’t include the actual survey instrument).

Back to the NPR Piece

The main complaint of media critics is that news organizations have an obligation to play “referee” as opposed to presenting “both sides” of an argument walking away.  NPR and Rose provide an excellent example in this case as the Net Neutrality is (falsely) framed:

[…] The recent midterm elections could affect the future of the Internet. Democrats in Congress, along with the Federal Communications Commission, had been crafting rules to protect what they call a free and open Internet. But Republicans say the Internet isn’t broken, doesn’t need fixing. Now with Republicans about to gain control of the House, advocates of new rules for an open Internet are pinning their fading hopes on the FCC. […]


[…] Mr. BRUCE MEHLMAN (Lobbyist): Does the FCC say were going to figure out a way to hammer out a compromise? Or do they say were putting the monster truck in drive?

(Soundbite of engine revving)

ROSE: That was Bruce Mehlman, a lobbyist for the telecommunications industry, and possibly the first person to ever compare the Federal Communications Commission to a monster truck.

(Soundbite of cheering)

(Soundbite of engine revving) […]

It’s subtle, but there’s a variety of elements of this story that are biased, but these are the main two:

  • Framing: NPR/Rose allow the telecoms to begin the narrative where they want, which is with the introduction of the bill to formally enshrine Net Neutrality under the law.  The very critical history of Net Neutrality is excluded from this discussion; chiefly, that the bill to formally protect Net Neutrality arose only because the telecommunications industry attempted to eliminate it in 2006. (Fortunately for Net Neutrality advocates, they entrusted the tech-illiterate late Sen. Ted Stevens to carry their water for them and he embarrassed himself so badly that it did irreparable damage to their case).
  • Treatment: Rose opted to include a sound byte of a monster truck to support the metaphor presented by Bruce Mehlman (shill for the telecoms).  He afforded no such courtesy for Gigi Sohn, President of Public Knowledge (the “other side” in this piece).

Perhaps it’s because Sohn didn’t have a colorful metaphor to present with her case, perhaps Rose thought it would sex up the story to feature the monster truck metaphor (he did, after all, describe the debate as “dry”).  Regardless, the end result is to play into the hands of the telecoms and allow them to set frame the debate.

Telecoms + Wikileaks = Trouble for Net Neutrality

I anticipate (if it hasn’t started already) that the interests trying to kill Net Neutrality will almost certainly use the recent Wikileaks release of 250,000 cables* as a wedge to advance their agenda.  The angle they’ll take is that for “security” reasons, we need to allow corporate control to be able to shut down “terrorist” organizations like Wikileaks.

[*Correction: Nick Manes correctly pointed out that thus far, only about one percent of the 250,000+ cables have been released]

“Wikileaks is …”: Public Opinion in the US on the Wikileaks Release

December 9, 2010 2 comments
Google "Wikileaks is..." Sentiment

Google "Wikileaks is..." Sentiment

Related to my previous post, one of the other fascinating things to observe about the Wikileaks release of cables from the US to other foreign governments is how the event seems to serve as a blank canvas upon which people can paint their own perspective.

I don’t watch much of the traditional newsmedia, but it seems as though the US public isn’t really of a single, cohesive mind on the case.  This would make sense given that audiences continue to fragment, and the news sources selected by most in the US cater to their particular flavor of opinion.

Check out what Google’s analytical tools show people searching for when referencing Wikileaks:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It would be interesting to see what context/terms the people of OTHER nations are using to search for Wikileaks information – I’d enjoy seeing screen caps or other analytics data if anyone has it.

The Most Important Aspect of the WikiLeaks Debate

December 8, 2010 85 comments

Wikileaks LogoThere’s a lot of thoughtful discussion going on about Julian Assange and WikiLeaks in light of the publication of the 250,000 cables between the US and other foreign governments.  Some of the best I’ve read comes from Clay Shirky (“WikiLeaks and the Long Haul”), Jeff Jarvis (“WikiLeaks: Power Shifts From Secrecy to Transparency”) Evan Hansen (“Why WikiLeaks is Good for America”) and Ethan Zuckerman (“Why Amazon Caved, and What it Means for the Rest of us”)

If you’re interested in reading more commentary, Alexis Madrigal at The Atlantic is doing a great job cataloging essays and editorials here.

As with so many things, the moral question of whether or not WikiLeaks should exist or should publish this sort of information is nearly irrelevant.  The REALITY is that it DOES exist and CAN publish these documents and videos.

Every communication sent by anyone, be it a lowly government official or a head of state, carries with it the inherent risk of disclosure either through breaching the security of the channel through which it is sent or via the disclosure by the sender/recipient.

Rather than expending so many resources trying vainly to conduct so much policy through a (nonexistent) veil of silence (which invariably increases scrutiny) organizations need to consider the possibility that it benefits them to be more transparent, particularly in light of the new paradigms that affect communication.