The rise of corporate hate sites - lies, damned lies
London, UK - 02 December 2004, 20:30 GMT - The biggest digital risk
problem keeping some senior executives awake at night is not hacking, viruses
or network intrusion but corporate hate sites according to the one-to-one
private interviews carried out with over 125 CEOs and CFOs of major global
brands in North America, South America, Europe and Asia by the mi2g
Intelligence Unit between December 2003 and November 2004. There are currently
over 10,500 hate sites against major global brands on the internet. This compares
to 1,900 hate sites at the end of 2000, 550 hate sites at the end of 1997,
and just one hate site in 1995.
Hate groups once relied primarily on flyers, along with small-circulation
newsletters and other publications to push out their propaganda. Today, they
seek a global audience via hate sites, eMail distribution lists and blogs.
They work on the principle that if enough mud is thrown on the corporate walls,
some of it will stick. When that mud sticks, it becomes an opportunity to
make their extortionate demands.
The corporate hate sites dissuade customers from buying a particular product
or service and damage the revenue streams in a very measurable way. Corporate
hate sites have also, in many well documented cases, caused a major public
relations problem in terms of the resultant pressure from government watchdogs
and access to capital markets. Other hate sites also include those that are
anti-Semitic, anti-Catholic, anti-Islamic, anti-gay, anti-abortion, as well
as sites that promote racism, hate music and culture, neo-Nazism and bomb-making.
Hate sites cover a wide spectrum in terms of motivation and include well-intentioned
grassroots efforts, organised activism, harmless first-person vitriol and
more venomous, ruthless and malicious attacks. There are major hate sites
beginning <I hate> or ending <sucks> or <myths> against
many global entertainment companies, computing product manufacturers, financial
services groups, utilities and retailers. In some prominent cases, there are
several hate sites against one brand.
The internet has served hate groups in two specific ways: firstly, it has
given those groups a sense of empowerment; and secondly, it has provided them
with an unprecedented opportunity to market themselves - unhindered - at very
low cost, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Trademark protection is a critical problem for companies. Firms that do not
take an active role in protecting their trademarks risk diffusing them or
losing control. This problem has increased dramatically since the explosive
growth of the internet. Many companies, uncertain of the best approach to
take amid rapidly changing technologies, have relied on legal responses. This
approach may actually damage the company trademark. In most instances, the
law is unable to keep pace with developing technologies. For example: Napster.
Before the case could be litigated a new file-sharing technology had already
emerged that made Napster technology obsolete. Whilst the music industry succeeded
in damaging Napster, it could do not totally stop the infringement of their
intellectual property and the drastic decline in revenues which has ensued.
In our own experience mi2g has been a victim of a vicious and long
standing hate campaign for nearly five years, by a one-man-band who runs Vmyths.com.
Its author Robert Rosenberger has been full of venom and hate directed continuously
against mi2g and its senior management, exposing a dark and dangerous
vendetta. He has pestered the mi2g switchboard and left long and high-pressure
voice mails on many occasions about contracts-in-negotiation going back ten
years that are based on false leads generated through incorrect interviews
which he has conducted with former employees.
Whatever Vmyths writes about - total lies, some half-lies and figments of
bizarre imagination - are all directed at garnering negative sentiments towards
the anti-virus software and security industry. Mr Rosenberger entertains contact
with former disgruntled employees to gather more gossip material for his hate
campaigns and actively solicits such content. Vmyths flagrantly abuses copyright
and trademarks by creating look-alike false web pages in the name of humour
at another corporate entity's expense.
Ultimately all hate sites have more than one agenda. The one which is exposed
and the several agendas which are hidden. The author of Vmyths appears to
give the impression of being a stooge for large software vendors that would
like the world to believe that there are no computer viruses or security problems
at all. Most of the virus problems documented are myths, hence, Vmyths. Mr
Rosenberger has never written against certain computing vendors for example
that make particular operating systems and associated applications.
Vmyths would ideally like the world to believe that all computers function
efficiently and security companies invent viruses and digital risk problems
to cause operational difficulties and pick up business. Since digital risk
problems are real, whose agenda is Mr Rosenberger furthering?
Some time back, mi2g received a missive from the owner of Vmyths.com
to say that for a very substantial sum of money he will sell the Vmyths website
to mi2g and then the negative content, which he is aware of, will stop.
What is this if it is not extortion? In the first instance a lot of negative
commentary is written against a corporate entity and its management, and then
cash is demanded to take the content or website off-line.
These kind of hate site protagonists feel they are doing a service to the
community but in some cases they end up becoming caricatures of their own
material: clowns at best and extortionists at worst.
"The hate sites problem is a major one. The
big focus for corporate executives is good public relations because that collective
goodwill keeps the share price calm on the stock market"
said DK Matai, Executive Chairman,
mi2g. "A lot of bad press or negative
commentary on hate sites can engender significant volatility in share price,
damage stake-holders' confidence, and all that makes the business revenues
melt away. Many competitors are also known to aid and abet hate sites so that
they are able to smudge contrary views against themselves or their products
in the process."
While hate sites pose obvious problems for a company, they can also provide
opportunities. Many companies monitor their hate sites because they provide
valuable feedback about their existing products and services that they may
not find elsewhere or without commissioning expensive customer-satisfaction
sites on rise: Study - The Globe and Mail
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