International Journal of Inactivism (now supplanted by Decoding SwiftHack)

2008/12/17

The Way of the Astroturf IV: easily send letters to local news media

cite as: F. Bi. 2008. The Way of the Astroturf IV: easily send letters to local news media. Intl. J. Inact., 1:188–189

Mitchell Anderson at DeSmogBlog recently uncovered a group of astroturf web sites aiming to derail climate change regulation, including the Partnership for America (“a broad-based alliance of people”) and Americans for American Energy (which has an unspecified number of “grassroots supporters”). Brian D also found that these groups share the same IP address (72.32.229.51) as a bunch of other ‘organizations’ such as the Consumers for Affordable Energy, and (a currently empty) Secure Energy Systems LLC.

But that’s not all. The company behind these sites, Policy Communications Inc. is apparently so proud of its astroturf efforts1 that they actually have a web page talking about them. On this page they mention this (now-defunct) project of theirs:2

Grassroots Power Network
We developed and now manage one of the nation’s most sophisticated electronic grassroots advocacy networks ever developed — giving hundreds and eventually thousands of independent organizations the ability to conduct cutting-edge communications and issue advocacy never before available to them.

I’m still not entirely sure how this thang worked, but part of its blurb claimed that it gave one the power to “[e]asily send letters to local news media”. If this was true, then Grassroots Power must be a very interesting project indeed.

(I’ve added the PolicyCom sites and CEI’s Cooler Heads Coalition to the think-tank diagram.)

Footnotes

  1. Not proud enough, though, to actually mention PolicyCom on the astroturf sites themselves.
  2. Note that the Grassroots Power Network resides (or resided) on a different IP address, 198.87.0.87.

* * *

Update 2008-12-17: Fixed a few errors in the diagram.

Another update 2008-12-17: Oh. OK.

Although the organizations claims to support “grassroots” groups, GPS has complete control and the websites can be used only on its (more specifically, its funders’) agenda. It’s all in the Terms of Use contract [archived] people have to consent to before getting a website:

  • “User Organization shall have the right to choose from a menu of Issue Campaigns that may be incorporated into the Grassroots Advocacy Website. In addition, PFW shall have the right to incorporate additional Issue Campaigns to be determined by PFW in its sole discretion.”
  • “The Issue Campaigns are copyrighted material owned by PFW and are protected under United States copyright law.”
  • “User Organization acknowledges that it is not now, nor in the future may be, deemed author and owner of any Intellectual Property Rights in and to the Issue Campaigns.”
  • “Nothing herein shall be deemed to require PFW to create specific Issue Campaigns on User Organization’s behalf.”

I’m still curious to know how they make it easy to spam letters to news outlets.

Update 2008-12-18: Turns out that New Scientist had discovered Grassroots Power back in November.

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