Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Koch Industries Employs PR Firm To Airbush Wikipedia, Gets Banned For Unethical ‘Sock Puppets’

By Lee Fang

Last year, Koch Industries began employing New Media Strategies (NMS), an Internet PR firm that specializes in “word-of-mouth marketing” for major corporations including Coca-Cola, Burger King, AT&T, Dodge and Ford. It appears that, ever since the NMS contract was inked with Koch, an NMS employee began editing the Wikipedia page for “Charles Koch,” “David Koch,” “Political activities of the Koch family,” and “The Science of Success” (a book written by Charles). Under the moniker of “MBMAdmirer,” NMS employees edited Wikipedia articles to distance the Koch family from the Tea Party movement, to provide baseless comparisons between Koch and conspiracy theories surrounding George Soros, and to generally delete citations to liberal news outlets. After administrators flagged the MBMAdmirer account as a “sock puppet” — one of many fake accounts used to manipulate new media sites — a subsequent sock puppetinvestigation found that MBMAdmirer is connected to a number of dummy accounts and ones owned by NMS employees like Jeff Taylor.

Soren Dayton, a GOP operative and executive at New Media Strategies, is reported to be the contact for Koch Industries at NMS. Reached by phone yesterday by ThinkProgress, Dayton exclaimed, “I’m not going to talk about this, thanks,” before hanging up. Lyndsey Medsker, a senior account director for NMS, spoke to ThinkProgress today. She explained that NMS also maintains the Koch Industries Twitter page, Facebook page, and has an active team working on promoting Koch Industries in the comment section of blogs and news websites.

As ThinkProgress has reported, the billionaire Koch brothers maintain contracts with over a dozen public relation firms and lobbying firms. Pushing back again recent scrutiny, the brothers have also relied on a conservative media infrastructure owned by the Koch brothers or closely linked to them by way of their donor conferences. We have documented how the Koch message machine has targeted ThinkProgress and even placed hit-pieces against a New Yorker journalist investigated the Kochs. But now it seems the Koch brothers are at work manipulating Wikipedia to polish their image.

Full disclosure: The Wonk Room’s Brad Johnson has been active user of Wikipedia for almost ten years now. He contributes to a variety of Wikipedia articles that interest him.

UPDATEUpdate: The PR firm working for Koch Industries contacted us and noted that "MBMAdmirer" disclosed that it was editing on behalf of Koch Industries.

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