VICE posted up a good article entitled The Corporate PR Industry’s Sneaky War on Internet Activism that breaks down what goes on behind the scenes with big corporations and how they battle online grassroots movements. Here are a couple of choice quotes, but by all means, read that entire article:
Today, commercial lobbyists operate sophisticated monitoring systems designed to spot online threats. It means that it you bad-mouth a large corporation in 140 characters, chances are they will find it. Their job then is to sift through the sea of online malcontents and find the “influencers”.
“The person making a lot of noise is probably not the influential one,” Mike Seymour, former head of crisis management at PR and lobbying giant, Edelman, told fellow PRs attending a conference across the road from Parliament in November 2011. “You’ve got to find the influential one, especially if they are gatherers of people against us.” His point was eloquently made by events across town. As he spoke, Occupy protests were creating headlines around the world. Seymour explained that, once these influencers are identified, “listening posts” are put out there, to “pick up the first warning signals” of activist activity.
More disturbingly, here is one of these lobbyist groups that help corporations manipulate Google search results:
Here’s an example that VICE put on the article:
BP, for example, was found to have been manipulating Google in the wake of the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. What BP appears to have been attempting was to get its message, which was “Learn more about how BP is helping”, at the top of Google searches relating to the spill. NGOs and affected communities with much smaller pockets were therefore blocked from getting their message of, “Look how badly BP has fucked us,” across.
VICE also posted a similar article in 2013 about the PR Industry Buying Influence Over Wikipedia:
In recent months though, insiders have encountered something altogether more worrying: a concerted attack on the very fabric of Wikipedia by PR companies that have subverted the online encyclopedia’s editing hierarchy to alter articles on a massive scale—perhaps tens of thousands of them. Wikipedia is the world’s most popular source of cultural, historical, and scientific knowledge—if their fears are correct, its all-important credibility could be on the line.
The king of these Wikipedia reputation managers is a company called Wiki-PR, that specializes in editing Wikipedia on behalf of their paying clients. The promise on their Twitter profile couldn’t be clearer: “We write it. We manage it. You never worry about Wikipedia again.“