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|(US) 1/06 - Cyber smear tactics - a g...
Post Number: 3072
Best of Black Box? N/A
Votes: 0 (A keeper?)
|Posted on Tuesday, January 3, 2006 - 11:52 am: ||
In the words of the founder of Eastman-Kodak Company, “Peace extends only to
private life, in business it is war all the time.” Perhaps those of us that
live and operate during this Internet age would best be reminded of this fact.
Today, it seems everybody and anybody is the target of Internet smear campaigns;
corporations large and small, actors and sports figures, politicians (of
course), and even movies. What seems more surprising than the rapid rise of the
Internet as a main-stream technology and its use as a “bashing” tool is the
culpability of its readers. Why would someone believe that “Tom Cruise is gay”
or that “Hillary Clinton was an avid apologist for murderers in the Black
Panther Party 30 years ago” (actual Internet smears) just because someone typed
it onto the Internet? Why is the credibility of slander and libel taken at face
value as fact? We all know that ‘any fool can criticize, and many of them do’,
but it becomes harder to stomach that people actually believe their deleterious
For those of us in the business world, the reasons Cyber smear is effective must
best be left to psychologists to conjure. There are questions of larger
relevance, such as:
• What is the basis of criticism?
• Why do critics do what they do? and
• What may be done about it?
We find that the actions of the critic originate from three basic motivations:
• Sincere concern for the well being of the accused
• Jealousy or envy of the standing or success of the accused, and
• Hatred for the accused, his/her ideas and his/her influence.
Let us take each of these in turn. Firstly, when discussing Cyber smear, it is
extremely unlikely that the critic is concerned for the well being of the
accused. Criticism of this nature is more likely to come from friends or
loved-ones on a personal basis and not be organized and conducted cowardly from
behind the veil of Internet anonymity (although, this is a possibility).
Secondly, as with any success, there will be those who become jealous and
envious. Thirdly, whenever someone takes a stand on principles or issues, or
develops a following or influence, there will automatically be those in
opposition. It is best for the recipient of critical attack to ascertain which
of these motivations is at work.
Why do critics do what they do? What could they possibly gain with their
• A sense of power
• A feeding of their self-righteousness and haughty indignation
• Sadistic pleasure, or the enjoyment of seeing others suffer under their
• An ego trip or sense of importance, e.g. “saving the world” or “protecting the
• A justification for their own lack of performance in life
• Make them selves look better by tearing others down
• Financial Reward (from backers antagonistic to the accused or from litigation)
• Entertainment, hobby value.
A. Stanley said, “When someone catches a vision for bettering himself
educationally or financially, his vision is often met with criticism from the
people closest to him. Why? Because those who have no vision for their own
academic pursuits or financial freedom feel threatened by those who have
decided to get up and do something with them selves. Their insecurities about
their own lack of education surface or they are forced to take a painful look
at where they are financially as opposed to where they could be.” Understanding
the motivations of critics is the first step to dealing with them properly. And
in a general sense, what are the options for dealing with a critic?
• Control your conduct, give them no additional fuel, be a contrary example
• Don’t sink to their level, give them any life, or resort to their
• Don’t get emotional or defensive. Maintain composure and calmness and think
• Don’t allow critics to rob you of your joy, “Never grow weary in well-doing”
• Arm yourself with information that represents the truth about the situation
and flood the same venues being used by the critics with the real story
• Remain focused on your business or personal goals and succeed, succeed,
succeed (they can stand nearly anything but that!)
• Forgive them and don’t let them develop hate in your heart
• Pray for them.
In the specific case of Cyber smear, individuals and companies have some options
• Litigation (at a minimum, consult your counsel)
• Contact regulators, SEC, other law enforcement (depending on situation)
• Counter with your own public relations campaigns on-line
• Ignore the situation altogether
• Monitor Internet smear on a regular basis.
Use the articles and links provided on this website to lead you to a specific
course of action that fits your company or individual needs. And in the mean
• Critics are cowards
• Critics are spectators in life
• Critics are passengers in their own lives
Teddy Roosevelt said, “The credit belongs to the man in the arena, whose face is
marred by dust and seat and blood; who strives valiantly . . .who knows the
great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause;
who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at
the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly so that his place
shall never be with those cold and timid souls who have never known neither
victory nor defeat.”
Post Number: 3082
Best of Black Box? N/A
Votes: 0 (A keeper?)
|Posted on Tuesday, January 3, 2006 - 5:05 pm: ||
I'm accumulating these in an easy-to-find location, because we anticipate that as we continue to be effective, these kinds of strategies will continue to be used.
Companies fight Web smears
The Internet has a dark side. Companies as large as Microsoft, Tommy Hilfiger, Procter & Gamble and Starbucks have been victims of anonymous Internet whispering campaigns that are multiplying like spam.
"Cyber smears" include boycotts, scams, rumors and false reports, all passed along by mass E-mails, disparaging gossip on message boards and on Web sites, said Marc Weiner, CEO of Delahaye Media Link, which provides research on companies' reputations.
"The speed and reach of the Internet dramatically increases the velocity and reach of a rumor," he added.
Many of these rumors date back a generation or more but still will not die. Others are as fresh as this morning's fad.
Tommy Hilfiger has been dogged for five years by the false rumor that the designer appeared on the Oprah Winfrey TV show and made remarks regretting that minority consumers were buying his clothes.
In fact, Hilfiger has never been on Oprah Winfrey, and the company has contributed $5 million to the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project.
"It's always the leading companies in the field who are the targets," said Thomas Quinn, producer of cable network TLC's "Mostly True Stories: Urban Legends Revealed," which debuts tomorrow night. "If you're the target of an urban legend, chances are that you're among the leaders in your field."
With the ease and speed that such rumors fly around the Internet, public relations people now routinely monitor what's being said in E-mails, chatrooms and notorious Web sites like www.f-----dcompany.com.
To combat the whispering, Weiner said, "companies create truth sites where they tell the truth. Research shows that 81% of people use the Web to find out about companies, and 75% go to the company's site first."
One such truth site is Tommy Hilfiger's. It includes statements from Hilfiger, Winfrey (who says she's never even met Tommy), the Anti-Defamation League, ("We have concluded that these rumors are completely false") and customers, saddened by the nonsense.
Since April, mass E-mailers have been sending demands that customers boycott Starbucks because it "closed all stores in Israel." In fact, Starbucks simply ended a business arrangement that wasn't working out.
Like McDonald's, Starbucks has also been bedeviled by fake coupons circulating on the Internet. Consumers who thought they were getting a free 12 ounce Creme Frappuccino learned otherwise.
"As soon as Starbucks became aware of the counterfeit coupon, we immediately notified our (employees) not to accept or redeem the coupon," a spokesman said. "We apologize to those customers who were misled or inconvenienced by this unauthorized activity."
While some companies have used the threat of litigation to take down critical Web sites, suing people who pass on anonymous Internet rumors is like trying to nail a gnat with a sledgehammer.
In fact, many companies on Fortune's Top Ten Most Admired list have prospered despite assaults on their reputation.
Besides Starbucks (No. 9 on the list), Microsoft (No. 7) has contended with many E-mail hoaxes and anti-Microsoft Web sites, and Procter & Gamble (No. 10) for 23 years has battled reports linking it to Satanism.
"Companies that don't treat reputations as valuable assets run a great risk," said Weiner.
Procter & Gamble refused to comment for this story, but the company has a Web page about the familiar "Moon and Stars" trademark that says "The rumors falsely allege that the trademark is a symbol of Satanism ... it was designed to show a man-in-the-moon looking over a field of 13 stars commemorating the original American colonies."
Microsoft, which has plenty of Internet headaches with worms, viruses and other Internet security breaches, says it doesn't comment on E-mail hoaxes.
Or as TLC's Quinn put it, "The Internet can be a bathroom wall. Anybody can write anything, and anyone can read it."