Fox News Used Fake Online Commenters to Counter Bad Publicity

Ethical? Probably not. Hilarious? Absolutely.

Apparently when they said, “We report, you decide” during the last decade or so, the folks at Fox News didn’t actually mean it. Media Matters (an admittedly left-leaning group) has the goods on how the network put its PR department to the task of pretending, in online comments sections, to be people who really love Fox News.

The story comes from a new book by NPR’s David Folkenflik, who says a Fox staffer told him the company had a hundred fake accounts to promote pro-Fox 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]

How’d you like to be the Fox News staffer who had to use AOL dial-up in order to post comments like, “Sean Hannity is soooooo awesome”? It’s weird, paranoid, and a little dishonest … and hey, Fox News chairman Roger Ailes got his start working for Richard Nixon! Probably no coincidence.