Fake Blogs and Rumor Sites

The charming and intelligent Erin Caldwell - the Auburn student pictured to the left - had an insightful post last month about fake blogs. She had put out a call to her classmates on PRBlogs.org - as well as other readers - on how to handle a certain situation.

The situation?

So you’re the PR director for a large company that is currently in the middle of a lot of public controversy. While you’re keeping tabs on mentions of your company in the news and in blogs, you notice that your CEO has a blog. Wait. You would know if your CEO had started a blog. And this blog seems to be throwing his and the company’s views way out of proportion and making inflammatory statements.
So, what would you do in such a situation was her question - and a few of the classmates did pipe up, but this is something that can be reality for companies now - and, truthfully, I would not be surprised if there are fake blogs out there claiming to speak for various corporations. I also had suggestions, but it would be interesting to find out if there have been fake corporate blogs, and how they were dealt with.

What made me think of Ms. Caldwell's post? Well, I was IM'ed "On the DL" today by a reporter friend. Now, I am not a baseball fan, but this site did drag me in because I live in a state with a popular team ... and some former players were on this site. Now, the site owners are smart, as they have a disclaimer that I brought up in the libel post, and does seems to relieve them of liability:
As the court system has ruled, we here at On The DL are not responsible for any comments made by other people or any claims made on other sites, both warranted and/or unwarranted. The comments posted on this site do not necessarily reflect our views and are the exclusive opinions of those posters only.
But, you know that the executives at MLB and the MLB Players Association have to be sweating bullets. Well, likely it is the players that are sweating bullets when/if their wives find this site. How do you respond to such a site, though? As public figures, they are apt to be gossiped about, but should you respond to such a site? America loves gossip sites - look at the popularity of Gawker and Defamer - and here's a site that pulls you in about baseball players.

I have no answer on how I would react if I were at MLB or MLBPA - it's food for thought, though, and a wake up call for sports publicists on how they need to track blogs just like corporations.

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  1. Related to this is a political campaign in the UK to get Members of Parliament (MPs) blogging. This has encouraged constituents to establish ‘proxy blogs’ in their MP’s name (details on that: http://www.bloggerheads.com/mps_weblogs.asp and here’s an example: http://www.katehoey.co.uk/).

  2. I may never go down in history penning a quoteworthy quote, but this is an original:

    "Ninety percent of the world never leaves high school, they just leave adult supervision."

    The strength of blogs is the freeform nature, and the ease of broadcasting an opinion to an eager audience.

    The weakness of blogs is the inevitable tipping point where high school gossip goes global.

    But you can't take one without the other.

  3. I can't think of any situations such as the one that Erin references off the top of my head, but wouldn't the ‘fake blog’ have to put a note up that says - "The Unofficial blog of XYZ"? Otherwise, aren't the bloggers breaking a law of some sort? You can’t just go around claiming this and that about companies without some sort of repercussion – right?

    And as far as rumor sites go - I’d hope people are smart enough to know when a blogger has an agenda or is just trying to get some attention.

  4. Well, just because it's illegal doesn't mean somebody won't do it. As I mentioned in the comment section of my post, it can be very tricky dealing with a blogger - even when he/she is obviously in the the wrong. In this situation, legal action isn't enough. My point is simply that there's a whole different - very delicate - strategy needed to deal with a fraud in the blogosphere.

    And Ike, I like the quote. I've added it to my little red book. :-)