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Microsoft

Microsoft Fakes Citizen Letters of Support 603

Posted by michael
from the corporations-are-people-too dept.
An Anonymous Coward writes: "According to this Seattle Times article, Microsoft is sending letters to Utah's Attorney General in support of the company, but with fake signatures of citizens (some of whom are dead!). The article says: "Letters sent in the last month are on personalized stationery using different wording, color and typefaces, details that distinguish Microsoft's efforts from lobbying tactics that go on in politics every day. State law-enforcement officials became suspicious after noticing that the same sentences appear in the letters and that some return addresses appeared invalid."" The original source appears to be this story in the LA Times today. We here at Slashdot would like to take the time to say that strong competition and innovation have been the twin hallmarks of the technology industry, and if the future is going to be as successful as the recent past, the technology sector must remain free from excess regulation.
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Microsoft Fakes Citizen Letters of Support

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  • http://128.241.244.96/portal/uploads/27000/27549_w inrg.swf
    • This is clearly only the first version of Microsoft LetterWriter, so it's bound to have a few quirks. Everyone knows that by version 3.0, it'll be much easier to use, and will probably include support for faxes, answering machine messages, and "handwritten" fonts as well as these printed letters that were spotted so quickly.
  • Oh my God! (Score:5, Funny)

    by sg3000 (87992) <<moc.cam> <ta> <cilbup_gs>> on Thursday August 23, 2001 @08:15AM (#2207287)
    > Microsoft is sending letters to Utah's Attorney General
    > in support of the company, but with fake signatures
    > of citizens (some of whom are dead!).

    Oh my God! The dead have risen, and they're supporting Microsoft!

    (with apologies to the Simpsons)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 23, 2001 @08:16AM (#2207288)
    The two of us, undersigned, wish to protest your needless hassling of the legendary innovator Microsoft. Please desist.

    (signed)
    Generalissimo Francisco Franco (Ret.)
    John Lennon (Beatle)
  • Lets wait until the investigation is finished and then, if it's Microsoft, bash them really good.
    • by mgblst (80109) on Thursday August 23, 2001 @08:28AM (#2207326) Homepage
      Maybe there should be an investigation into how these people died!

      A letter from one of the deceased:

      "I have been happily using microsoft products for years, and have never had a problem with them. In fact i recently requested that my life support machine be converted to run with win 95, and have not had a problem with it"
    • Lets wait until the investigation is finished and then, if it's Microsoft, bash them really good.

      Good point, I agree. Just because a journalist reported it does not mean that it is fact. If you read the article, you will notice that nothing indicates that it is actually M$ doing this. It could be anybody. The motive can be that of the letters which would help M$ or the motive is for the letters to be discovered as fake to hurt M$. Either way, it is too early to tell who actually was behind this.
  • Astro Turf (Score:2, Insightful)

    by HerrGlock (141750)
    Didn't MS get a black eye over this before? What has changed to make them think they can get away with it this time?

    People write for and against organizations and corporations all the time, let 'the people' speak, MS. Believe it or not, quite a few will speak in your favor.

    If you are not getting good press and 'the people' are not happy with your product, that means the marketplace is actually working as it should and people will find someone else with whom to do buisness. Free enterprise means that 'the people' decide whether or not your company survives.

    This is not the 'big business' that some folks are talking about when they are looking towards freedom of speech, this is hogwash made by a monopoly looking to embed itself so far up everyone's butt that they can put out the trash they have been putting out and make people pay for the priviledge of owning a piece of the trash.

    What's even more pathetic is that a lot of people will still claim that there are not illegal/immoral/fattning business practices going on here.

    DanH

    • People write for and against organizations and corporations all the time, let 'the people' speak, MS. Believe it or not, quite a few will speak in your favor.


      Uh.. don't you think they would have by now? Surely Microsoft did this because the public *wasn't* defending them??

    • For those of us who are just too darn busy, there is always Progressive Secretary [progressivesecretary.org].

      They provide a free service writing protest letters for you, although I imagine they need to be in agreement with your politics. [I found the link over on protest.net]

      Some how I think that this is not what microsoft did, considering that the politics are a bit different.

      - - -
      Radiofreenation.com
      is a general news site based on Slash Code
      "If You have a Story, We have a Soap Box"
      - - -

  • This innovation allows the user to create form letters with ease. It automatically searches the Social Security Administration for deceased individuals to use as senders.

    Great for mass marketing.

    I think Microsoft was just trying it out.

    Sean D.
  • Is this a crime? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Goonie (8651) <robert...merkel@@@benambra...org> on Thursday August 23, 2001 @08:21AM (#2207300) Homepage
    While this certainly sounds like a devious, underhanded and nasty thing to, is astroturfing in this manner a crime?

    Asuming the answer is "no it's not a crime" the next questions I wonder are - can it be (given the First Amendment), and should it be (seeing that it's essentially political fraud)?

    • While this certainly sounds like a devious, underhanded and nasty thing to, is astroturfing in this manner a crime?

      IANAL but it seems like fraud to me. They are claiming that Mrs. Johnson or John Doe believes that "X is the right thing to do" when in reality it is just Microsoft propaganda. I don't know how far a case of fraud like this would get in court but I am sure it will make them look bad in their anti-trust case- they just don't know how to take their foot out of their mouth.
    • The estates of the dead people may be able to sue for "libel" I suppose.
    • can it be (given the First Amendment)

      Definitely.

      If I state

      Bill Gates mentioned Linux is better than Windows, and Microsoft's webmaster told me they've upgraded all their servers to Linux and *BSD

      or

      George W. Bush called me today and mentioned his political idol is Adolph Hitler

      and claim they're actually true, watch me getting get locked up.

      Satire is protected if it's clear that it IS satire.
    • While this certainly sounds like a devious, underhanded and nasty thing to, is astroturfing in this manner a crime?

      Remember that a court is involved: if they introduce anything like this in court, then yes, it's a straight case of perjury.
      • There may be a court involved, but perjury is lying under oath. This stunt wouldn't be perjury.


        It could certainly be seen as libel or a similar crime, possibly even a minor form of identity theft.


        Even more fun, the LA Times article implied that this was regular snail mail. The USPS has its own laws, and they are particularly draconian against mail fraud.


        Forget MS versus DoJ. Think MS versus USPS. Hotmail versus snail mail. No laws need be passed. But just imagine armed postal inspectors storming Redmond!

    • Microsoft isn't a person [adbusters.org], why should it have first amendment rights?
  • You just have to laugh out loud when you read something like this. A company that has so much scrutiny focused on it for underhanded tactics - is using some of the most fraudulent tactics known to man.

    The worst part - and not so laughable - I'd bet better than even money that in the end the US government will let them get away with everything... but that's just me being cynical, right?
    • before hurting yourself by laughing so hard, take some time to read the article. Microsoft is paying professional lobbying groups to run pro-MS campaigns. It just so happens that some of these lobbying groups *are* using unethical techniques, and Microsoft should be flogged for not properly managing these organization's strategies. You would think that Steve Balmer is forging his grandmother's signature on letters from the comments I've read about this article

      Think about it. As you say, do you honestly think that the world's most scrutinized company would knowingly agree to a campaign that utilized dead folk's signature's? As much as you hate to admit, MS has put themselves in this dominant position by having pretty smart people with keen business acumen and the drive to beat/crush their competition. How dumb do you think they are?
      • before hurting yourself by laughing so hard, take some time to read the article. Microsoft is paying professional lobbying groups to run pro-MS campaigns. It just so happens that some of these lobbying groups *are* using unethical techniques, and Microsoft should be flogged for not properly managing these organization's strategies. You would think that Steve Balmer is forging his grandmother's signature on letters from the comments I've read about this article

        I agree that there is a difference between Microsoft employees doing this campaign, and a marketing firm doing it after getting paid by Microsoft...but not a big difference.

        Microsoft hired them. MS paid for this service. True, we don't know exactly what MS asked for, yet MS specifically hired a firm who uses these tactics. Because of that, MS is responsible for any negitive fall out. After all, if they weren't cought, they would have benifited from those same tactics.

        My only question is are they doing this in other states? I'd be stunned if they weren't.

  • Misleading (Score:5, Informative)

    by Satai (111172) on Thursday August 23, 2001 @08:24AM (#2207308)
    ...but with fake signatures of citizens (some of whom are dead!).

    This is misleading. Microsoft is not sending the letters to the final destination; based on personal surveys, pre-written and pre-stamped letters are sent out to individuals, who then sign and send. In addition, the article states:

    Utah officials found two of the pre-fab letters bore the typed names of dead people. Those names had been crossed out by family members who signed for them. And another letter came from "Tuscon, Utah," a city that doesn't exist.

    So the statement implying that the dead had been stuffing the ballot box is misleading, to say the least - but no explanation is offered for Tucson, Utah.

    ...and in fact, Microsoft doesn't actually do this themselves. Several different "pro-Microsoft" groups are undertaking this.

    But... is is sleazy? You're damn right it is. It even sounds, from the tone of the article, like this isn't a common practice. Is it wrong? Probably.

    But it's not as bad as the caption said.

    (Favorite section: Microsoft complaining about 'well-funded special interest companies.' Um?)
    • Not Misleading (Score:3, Informative)

      by twitter (104583)
      Let's see here, Satai or is that Overturf, or who knows what else? Why would anyone be suspisious? From the LA Times article:
      Regulators became suspicious of the ruse after noticing that the same sentences appear in the letters and that some return addresses appear invalid.

      Hard to send out spam to invalid addresses, no?

      As for that "other" group or two on the MS payroll:
      Microsoft referred questions about the new campaign to the group running it, Americans for Technology Leadership, which gets some money from Microsoft but won't say how much. ATL was founded in 1999 as a spinoff of the Assn. for Competitive Technology, another pro-Microsoft group.

      Asked about the relationship between the telephone calls to citizens and the subsequent letters, ATL Executive Director Jim Prendergast initially said those who agreed the prosecution was misguided merely were given suggestions about what to use in drafting their own letters. "We gave them a few bullet points, but that's about the extent of it," he said. Asked why some phrases were identical, Prendergast then conceded the letters were written by his operation. "We'd write the letter and then send it to them," he said. "That's fairly common practice."

      Hmmmm. MS is not getting good value here, but I suppose it's cutting edge, the best lobby ever TM! Must be using MS Loby, cuz it's transparent and sucks:

      "It's an obvious corporate attempt to manipulate citizen input," said Rick Cantrell, community relations director for the Utah attorney general.

      "You can just tell these were engineered. When there's a real groundswell, people walk in, they fax, they call. We get handwritten letters."

      Yawn, another second rate offering from MS.

      Kissing two points of Karma goodbye! Mr. Overturf is sure to blast this one to -1 flamebait. Eat me!

    • Microsoft is not sending the letters to the final destination

      no, they are sending them from The Final Destination... that's the problem ;)

  • Not surprising (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sg3000 (87992) <<moc.cam> <ta> <cilbup_gs>> on Thursday August 23, 2001 @08:25AM (#2207311)
    The Los Angeles Times reported 3 years ago a similar scheme, where Microsoft was planning "a massive media campaign designed to influence state investigators by creating the appearance of a groundswell of public support for the company." [LA Times, "Microsoft Plans Stealth Blitz to Mend Its Image Public relations", Apr 10, 1998]. At the time that target was for free-lance writers to write opinion pieces, which would then be billed to Microsoft as an out of pocket expense.

    The only difference is, at the time Microsoft claimed that the idea it "was merely a proposal and 'not something we are moving on'" while this time they seem to be executing this plan.

    Faked video tapes, lying executives, and now this. Perhaps I'm overreacting (and it's 7 a.m. for me, so maybe I am), but can this company's actions get any worse? If the government itself were caught doing something like this, people would be in an uproar. But when it's Microsoft, most people respond with, "well, what can you do?"
    • Well, their actions could get worse. I mean legally, they're a criminal organization, but I would say they're not as bad as the Mafia.
    • Faked video tapes, lying executives, and now this. Perhaps I'm overreacting (and it's 7 a.m. for me, so maybe I am), but can this company's actions get any worse? If the government itself were caught doing something like this, people would be in an uproar.


      Edited tapes... lying executives... Watergate.


      We did have this before. It ended the career of a man that, had he handled Watergate in a sensible manner, would be considered a great president.


      Maybe it's because we know Microsoft has blood on their hands already. We expect this from them. I agree though - something should definitely be done.

    • Well, what _can_ you do? All we have to do is look at Congress and the President themselves to see that you can lie with impunity, get caught, and pay no real penalty. In essence, lying is now acceptable behavior. It's frowned upon, sure, but no one who gets caught at it in public life sees any real consequences.

  • I mean we all know you'd have ot be brain dead to use windows anyway - this just takes it a stpe further.

    Of course I gotta find out what technology they are using so I can send letters supporting Linux when I'm dead and gone too :)

    On a more serious note (not really) you have to wonder what brainiac came up with this - can you imagine the brainstorming session?

    • "Bill! We need to get citizens to send letter lobbying the gov'ts to drop the lawsuits"
    • BG: "Good idea - lets get all our customers on board"
    • "Um, most of our customers hate our software - it crashes too much - that whole Blue Screen of Death thing"
    • BG: "Thats it! Genius - Who better to lobby for the software that brought the world BSODs than dead people! Get on it!"

    OK - so I'm still on my first cup of coffee :)

  • Excess Regulation (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Wyatt Earp (1029) on Thursday August 23, 2001 @08:28AM (#2207327)
    "We here at Slashdot would like to take the time to say that strong competition and innovation have been the twin hallmarks of the technology industry, and if the future is going to be as successful as the recent past, the technology sector must remain free from excess regulation."

    I think that one of the things that have gotten us to the point of bloated, unstable software is a LACK of regulation and recourse against some of the larger Software companies.

    Companies like General Motors or Boeing must abide by safety and quality standards, while a Microsoft doesn't, even though it's products may or may not have more of an impact on daily lives and safety than cars by GM or planes from Boeing.

    The point-click-lock-you-in EULA has done away with the ability to have stable software on a computer for the vast majority of users in the United States and the rest of the world.

    Hoping for a hands off approach will not make it better, it will make it worse. I think that if you make a product, physical or virtual (software) you should be held responsable for the quality if you are charging money for it. Getting the software industry to the same level that the automotive, aerospace or appliance industry is, isn't excess...it's minimum regulation.
    • Hey read the article. CmdrTaco was trying to be sarcastic by using those exact same words as in those astroturfing letters.
    • Well, if a Boeing 747 isn't bloatware, then I don't know wat is.... :)
      • No...the 747 was built to a spec.

        The Spruce Goose was like trying to run Windows 95 on 4 MB of RAM.

        Aviation bloatware...Shuttle, B-36, FB-111 when it was a fighter for the Navy and a Bomber for the USAF, the Nazi Germany Giant Gilder/Bomber/Transport. Those are examples of Aviation bloatware...but the Shutte is awesome, but it was an attempt to do everything in one vehicle. Like Homer Simpson's car for his brother's company.

        "All my life, I have searched for a car that feels a certain way. Powerful like a gorilla, yet soft and yielding like a Nerf ball. Now, at last, I have found it."
  • This can only mean one of two things: their marketing staff is too lazy to get real support letters, or they don't have enough supporters to write letters. The answer is obviously number one - any company with millions of products in the hands of consumers can find at least a hundred people willing to write in their favor. Even Ma Bell had customers that were against their breakup. I'm dumbfounded that their staff could be that short-sighted to fake letters, though. The time spent faking could have been spent simply talking to customers and getting the real opinions - no matter which way the opinions go.
  • Tell me this... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Wind_Walker (83965) on Thursday August 23, 2001 @08:28AM (#2207335) Homepage Journal
    I'm gonna get bitchslapped for this, but I wonder...

    With all the recent articles about "astroturfing" (I'd link to them, but search is down right now) here on Slashdot, why is it that when a Linux group does it, it's the responsiblity of a single person who is quickly singled out, but when the group from Redmond does it, suddenly it's the entire corporation that is to blame?

    All we know is that we have a single person, perhaps more, sending invalid letters to the Utah Attorney General. For all we know, it could be just one person within Microsoft sending them because of a mis-interpreted order.

    Actually, the more I think about it, for all we know, it is actually a Linux supporter who is trying to discredit any valid grass-roots campaign that has sprung up for Microsoft.

    Let's not jump to conclusions here, folks; Let's wait for the facts before we start grandstanding about how terrible the Big Bad Corporation Microsoft is, mmmkay?

    • Re:Tell me this... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Mister Attack (95347) on Thursday August 23, 2001 @08:47AM (#2207401) Journal
      If you would read the article, you might see that, first off, there are way too many letters being sent for it to be one person; second, the organizations responsible for sending the letters have been identified, and are Microsoft-backed groups; and third, they attempted to lie about the extent of their involvement in writing the letters before forced to admit that they had actually written every word.

      The facts are there for you to read; I suggest you do so.

    • I think you have found a bug in slashdot:
      Is it possible to link to goatsex, and fake the link, in your sig.
      CmdrTaco, are you on it?
      (And for cryin' out loud, somebody mod down this goatsex link!
  • they've been astroturfing this place for years with bogus "I love MSIE, w2k, VB, and all other MSTD" posts. It's nice to see them busted.
  • IANAL... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Psarchasm (6377) on Thursday August 23, 2001 @08:30AM (#2207341) Homepage Journal
    Is there a mail fraud case in this?
  • Can you believe it. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by linuxpng (314861) on Thursday August 23, 2001 @08:37AM (#2207365)
    The part that just kills me is this

    The maker of Windows and other software also has stepped up campaign donations, becoming the fifth-largest soft-money donor to the national Republican and Democratic parties in 1999-2000, and it has hired a slew of well-connected lobbying firms.

    These letters contained this information.This is all out bribery at this point...and not even close to subtle.
  • by weave (48069) on Thursday August 23, 2001 @08:39AM (#2207371) Journal
    The presence of identical phrases doesn't necessarily indicate fraud. Even on slashdot, we often get people writing suggestions on letters to write to congress about DCMA, DeCSS, etc...

    Face it, most people can't articulate themselves very well and prefer to use boilerplate letters. It doesn't make their opinions any less valid.

    • Yeah, I know. I *do* believe Microsoft orchestrated them and should be hung out to dry. I was just saying that the presence of similar phrases alone doesn't necessarily mean it's a case of manipulation. You need more evidence than that, and it sounds like the attorney generals have found it...
  • If dead people can send letters, they surely can vote. If Microsoft can get away with this, they will surely try something bigger. Given the state of the voting system in the US, the logical next step would be to try to get Bill Gates for president, he has the money, and with all dead of the country voting for him, he can win easily. They simply need a good wording for this, something like open voting. This would solve the Departement of Justice Problem.

    Then again, this new technique would simply be a rehash of something done by other coutries around the world for a long time, so it's a perfect Microsoft inovation...

  • ATL Executive Director Jim Prendergast said those who agreed the prosecution was misguided were merely given suggestions about what to use in drafting their own letters.
    Asked why some phrases were identical, Prendergast then conceded that the letters were written by his operation. "We'd write the letter and then send it to them," Prendergast said. "That's fairly common practice."

    Sorry to burst your collective bubble, but he's right -- many, many groups do this sort of thing. They go out and find people who share their views on an important issue before congress, and give them suggestions. If you think that's evil, then all the real grass-roots political organizations must be evil, too!

    In fact, I've seen plenty of "Dear Congresscritter: This is why the DMCA Sucks" sample letters posted here, with suggestions to pass them along.

    All this article shows is that some MS supporters will just repeat whatever the company tells them to ("Innovation! Progress! XP!"), and do not have the capability to think for themselves, or at least phrase things in a different manner than what the company suggests, even when they agree.

    And this, more than anything else, is why Microsoft is keeping their market share -- because they've managed to capture the automatic loyalty of millions, with what most slashdotters think is crapware. That's the really evil thing about this...

  • write a letter to Utah's Attorney General expressing my view that Microsoft deserves eternal damnation. Also I'll produce enough evidence that I'm not dead at time of writing, e.g. my photo with today's newspaper.

    Anyone with me?
  • I've got to wonder... usually the way the news media protect themselves is by saying that "so-and-so alleges that..." "it's been claimed that..." and "reports indicate that...". Here, we have a slashdot posting that clearly claims that Microsoft broke a law which, not only have they not been found guilty of, but of which they have not even accused! No one said they faked letters... merely that they "helped" citizens write letters. That's not a crime. In fact, all groups do that ("Please sign and mail the following petition..."). But about the libel issue... normally, to prove libel, you need to prove a gross disregard for the facts... since slashdot added a link to another story, that would suggest they read the other story... so to say that MS faked signatures is clearly unfounded.
  • The intensive training seminars [ntk.net] that Ball-mer (CEO of Microsoft) did for his employees pays off. The employees know, by showing enough idiocy, they could be one day promoted to upper management. Keep up the good work.
  • Where exactly is the problem? PR firms call the people and asks if they agree with MS's stance. If they do, they send them a form letter that they can then sign and mail to their congressman. IF they change their mind, they can throw the letter away. They can tell the PR guy they don't agree and nothing will be done. It's been done by many groups for years and years. Unless I'm missing something, it's just a case of MS and their PR firm making it easier for people to mail their representatives.
  • Shameful. (Score:4, Funny)

    by Snowfox (34467) <snowfox@snowfox.nCOUGARet minus cat> on Thursday August 23, 2001 @09:12AM (#2207475) Homepage
    I think it's shameful the way Slashdot $shameful_adverb dumps on Microsoft, a $supportive_phrase of our community. Without Microsoft, we might all be {a computerless nation|carving our own boot disks}. Thumbs up for Microsoft and its right to {innovate|forcefully monopolize} on our desktop!

    Yours, etc. -

    $name
    $address
    Mormon City, UT 96629
  • by BeBoxer (14448) on Thursday August 23, 2001 @09:12AM (#2207477)
    Three others use exactly these words: "If the future is going to be as successful as the recent past, the technology sector must remain free from excess regulation."

    Would that be the recent past, or the not-so-recent past? Because I think I speak for a lot of people when I say that the technology sector should not repeat its "success" of the last six months.
  • And this business is allowed to feed it's brand [msnbc.com] of journalism to the public, claiming it to be ubiased news. The best part is that nothing will change. Despite showing a clear desire to deceive the American public by blatantly influencing elected officials with fabricated statements, today will be just another day for breaking news about sharks attacking missing interns. No corporate charter will be outright revoked, in the way that, for instance, an attorney would be instantly disbarred for deceiving a judge or simply their own client in the same way. If a local newspaper made up stories, I gaurantee it would take more flak than microsoft will over this, without even having to lie to any attorney generals.

    Let's take a look at the big picture; corporations can commit corporate crimes because they have influence over the governing body [opensecrets.org], and because they control the mediums through which the public will ever hear about it. Choose your news outlet and their respective owner, which would you trust:

    -Fox Broadcasting: News Corp [cjr.org] - $$$ [opensecrets.org]

    -ABC: Walt Disney Company [cjr.org] - $$$ [opensecrets.org]

    -CBS: Viacom-Infinity [cjr.org] - $$$ [opensecrets.org]

    -CNN: AOL-Time Warner [cjr.org] - $$$ [opensecrets.org] - $$$ [opensecrets.org]

    -NBC: General Electric [cjr.org] - $$$ [opensecrets.org] - $$$ [opensecrets.org]

    God bless America.
  • Bob: Hey, we have over $47M left in our marketing budget!

    Jane: Better spend it, or we won't get it again next year. Worse, it might go to another department...

    Bob: How about we send out logo'ed thing-a-ma-jigs, like more of those sit on them, and they make you sound like you have gas?

    Jane: Nope, to close to an actual product. We are trying to steer people away from thinking they "own" anything - they license, and give a ways don't promote that.

    Bob: I'm stuck - no more creative juices after killing off clippy and then bringing him back.

    later in PR....

    Alice: We just got $47M - Lets start another grass roots campaign!

  • Paperclip (Score:5, Funny)

    by Pseudonymus Bosch (3479) on Thursday August 23, 2001 @09:42AM (#2207604) Homepage
    Paperclip:
    It seems that you are writing a letter. Do you want me to change it into a letter supporting Microsoft in the [ODBC: SQL Error in /pr/astroturf/currentsuits.asp , line 145] case?
    [Yes] [Yes]
  • by pmc (40532)
    Microsoft is sending letters to Utah's Attorney General in support of the company, but with fake signatures of citizens (some of whom are dead!).


    They've made a grave error here.

  • instead of just the regular EndUserLicenseAgreement, there's now an ammendment at the bottom of the rest of the text with a letter already composed and adressed to your local representative.
    Before proceding you must now click "agree" instead of "accept".
    This letter is not from Microsoft, it was added by a non profit organization for the future of world conformance performance, who is only partially funded by microsoft.

  • In reference to the astroturfed letters...
    Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch said he got about 300 of those. "It's sleazy," Hatch said. "This is not a company that appears to be bothered by ethical boundaries."

    Hatch responded with his own mailings to the senders, explaining his position.

    Some of the recipients wrote back by hand, apologizing for passing along the Microsoft-inspired letters. "I sure was misled," one wrote. "It's time for you to get out there & kick butt."

    Now I'd like to know what Hatch's letter said to inspire such a turnaround. Anyone have a copy?


  • On the other hand, I've been using Microsoft's " Freedom to Innovate [freetoinnovate.com] " channel to send hardcopy protests to elected officials with a strictly anti-MS and anti-DMCA tone. Note: it does require a hotmail/passport account.

    Elected officials don't read email anymore. Orrin Hatch (the DMCA's writer) bounces email sent to him -- you're supposed to fill out an online form that doesn't mention IP or the MS antitrust suit under "topics".

    The FTN sends my verbiage snail mail hardcopy. If you sound mad, like "damn DMCA", and "Tell Orrin Hatch to take personal responsibility for Sklyarov" they send back two-page responses telling you they don't agree with you (except for Borin' Orrin himself, who always agrees with me).


  • I wonder if those dead people all sent their letters in alphabetical order, the way dead people usually vote in Bexar County, Texas...

  • by Sayjack (181286)
    They probably retained John Edwards to speak with the deceased. I imagine that it went something like this.

    John addressing a man in the crowd: Do you know a Mike...Michael?

    Man in crowd nods emphatically: Michael was my father's name.

    John: Michael's holding up a piece of corn, did he like corn, did he work in a corn related field?

    Man: My father was born in Iowa!!

    John: I'm sensing a crash, did Michael die in a car crash?

    Man: No...but he did use Windows and his computer crashed alot!!

    John: Michael has a message for you sir, "Strong competition and innovation
    have been the twin hallmarks of the technology industry."


  • If it is not a crime - it's only fair game.
  • On the one hand, I'm glad MS is getting found out oftener and oftener these days and in particular I'm glad their fake "grassroots support" is being exposed.

    OTOH, this sentence is ominous (where it isn't misinformed): "State law-enforcement officials became suspicious after noticing that the same sentences appear in the letters and that some return addresses appeared invalid."

    First of all, same sentences are no big deal. All organized letter-writing campaigns send out a script. Some of these are "sample letters" that people just copy, some are just bullet points but nobody should be surprised if some people come up with the same sentence to express the same thought.

    What's ominous to me is that state law-enforcement is checking return-addresses of citizen petitions. I'd hate to think that information was being cross-referenced with anything anywhere. For instance, should I refuse to sign a petition or send a letter if I have outstanding traffic tickets?
  • You know, this is bad and all, and it was very dumb of Microsoft (or more specifically, someone at Microsoft) for doing this. But at the same time, the Linux community does this kind of thing all the time. In the recent OpenGL vs. Direct3D thread, for example, everyone was bashing away at D3D based on info from years ago and without ever having used D3D. Pro-OpenGL rhetoric from such people is right up there with writing fake letters supporting OpenGL, in that they have the same lack of honest information content.
  • Everyone knows that the .gov types never read anything which actual citizens send them. Unless it's a memmo from one of corporate america's finace departments with a check in it, it's tossed in the trash.

    I guess the reporter must have been dumpster diving again.
  • ...to pull another one of these fake grasroots support stunts when you've been found out before?

    Just another one for the ``Help Me! I still have four bullets and I'm all out of feet'' folder.

  • Pardon my cynical subject line, but the only difference between what Microsoft has done here and what lobbying organizations like the Sierra Club do is that Microsoft can afford to call and argue with people to get them on their side, whereas the Sierra Club has to settle for just sending the letter and hoping people will sign it.


    I don't like that Microsoft has more money than the Sierra Club and can therefore afford to call people and personally convince them to sign the letters, but I don't believe that this is unethical. It's simply one of the prices we pay for freedom of speech - everybody has freedom of speech, and those who have more money can speak louder.


    Sigh. And I have to say that I am disappointed by the Slashdot article here - the person who wrote it should have read the original article, so that the slashdot article could have been a little more factual. I am very fond of slashdot, and it worries me when I see stories that really belong in the Slashdot Enquirer. :'(


    _MelloN_

  • by krmt (91422) <`moc.oohay' `ta' `erehmrfereht'> on Thursday August 23, 2001 @03:37PM (#2209926) Homepage
    How much you want to bet the letters begin with "I send you this file to ask your advice"?

If you steal from one author it's plagiarism; if you steal from many it's research. -- Wilson Mizner

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