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Microsoft Fakes Citizen Letters of Support

michael posted about 13 years ago | from the corporations-are-people-too dept.

Microsoft 603

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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fr1st ps0t (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2207281)

As always, props to my SFI homiez, dead and alive. Here's to you, fools.

Re:fr1st ps0t (-1)

Klerck (213193) | about 13 years ago | (#2207284)

Fix the gaping hole [sourceforge.net] in slashcode!

fp (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2207282)

fp

Probably created using the new version of Word (5, Funny)

ellem (147712) | about 13 years ago | (#2207286)

http://128.241.244.96/portal/uploads/27000/27549_w inrg.swf

Oh my God! (5, Funny)

sg3000 (87992) | about 13 years ago | (#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)

Dear Utah Attorney General (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#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)

This isn't facts. (2, Insightful)

codeforprofit2 (457961) | about 13 years ago | (#2207289)

Lets wait until the investigation is finished and then, if it's Microsoft, bash them really good.

Re:This isn't facts. (5, Funny)

mgblst (80109) | about 13 years ago | (#2207326)

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"

Re:This isn't facts. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2207412)

Oh please. You can just go ahead and sit there with your head buried deep into your rectum if you wish.

Astro Turf (2, Insightful)

HerrGlock (141750) | about 13 years ago | (#2207291)

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

Re:Astro Turf (2)

bonoboy (98001) | about 13 years ago | (#2207351)


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??

Re:Astro Turf (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2207353)

Yea, you really need to read the article. MS didn't send out those letters, ATL did. ATL is a lobbying foundation that MS gives money to, much like they give money an awful lot of pro-MS lobbying foundations.

ATL has pre-formatted letters, so that's why they look the same. So does Amnesty International. No new thing there.

Charges of using faked addresses and names need to be leveled at ATL, not MS -- or didn't we take off our blinders this morning?

Re:Astro Turf (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2207413)

"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."

"quite a few" wouldn't weight up to the people who speak against them.

Not because there actually -are- more people who are against them, but simply because it's human nature that it's easier to complain about something, than to praise it.

Did Your folks congratulate You on holding Your fork the right way ?
Did they do so every darn time that You did ?

No.

But did You ever get the ".. fork!" if You didn't hold it right ?
Heck, didn't You get that just about -every- time ?

So what makes You think that the people of the world are going to be praising Microsoft for doing a goob job all of a sudden ?
The people who don't complain basically -are- already saying that either.

A. They think MS is doing just fine, overall.
or
B. They don't give a shit.

Anyway... Microsoft themselves didn't send out those letters, and nowhere does it say that MS ordered the 3rd party company to do so in this manner.

Flame the right people.

New Feature in Word 2002 (2, Funny)

FirstNoel (113932) | about 13 years ago | (#2207293)

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.

once again (1)

sEEKz (113902) | about 13 years ago | (#2207294)

Microsoft is realises that they're dead soon!

Re:once again (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2207404)

Yeah.. and all Your base are belong to us, too.

If You're going to flame, at least do it proper English.

Makes you wonder (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2207295)

If all those WinTrolls(TM) on messageboards, usenet and letters-to-the-editor - which we've become so familiar with - are infact just P.R.-company propagandaists.

Wow, a new low... (1)

Pauley_24 (62688) | about 13 years ago | (#2207299)

After the loads of bad press that Sony got for fake critics and staged testimonials for their movies, you'd think that Microsoft would have thought better than to do something like this...

-- Pauley

Is this a crime? (4, Interesting)

Goonie (8651) | about 13 years ago | (#2207300)

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)?

Re:Is this a crime? (1)

cyberdonny (46462) | about 13 years ago | (#2207324)

> 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)?

They are essentially misrepresenting the opinions of existing (or recently deceased) citizens. As such, it should be a crime. Or how would you like if some random organization sent around letters in your (or your late grand-father's) name?

If they used made up name, it's a little less serious, but still iffy.

First Amendment only applies to stating your opinion in your own name (or stating it in an obviously anonymous way), it does not give you the right to misrepresent your neighbours opinion.

Re:Is this a crime? (1)

Nick Number (447026) | about 13 years ago | (#2207396)

They are essentially misrepresenting the opinions of existing (or recently deceased) citizens. As such, it should be a crime. Or how would you like if some random organization sent around letters in your (or your late grand-father's) name?

Well, Microsoft didn't send them directly. The people's relatives signed off on them...though not in a particularly clever way.

From the Seattle Times article:
If people express support for Microsoft, they are sent letters to sign, along with handstamped, pre-addressed envelopes to their state attorney general, to President Bush, and to their members of Congress.

and
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.

Re:Is this a crime? (2)

oconnorcjo (242077) | about 13 years ago | (#2207361)

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.

Re:Is this a crime? (2)

Webmonger (24302) | about 13 years ago | (#2207369)

The estates of the dead people may be able to sue for "libel" I suppose.

Re:Is this a crime? (1)

ch-chuck (9622) | about 13 years ago | (#2207380)

Nothing is a crime - unless you're caught.

A good test of ethics is to ask, "What if EVERYBODY did it", not just the priviledged few. What if everybody started sending mass mailings of their political views using bogus identities to their congresscritters? Would legislators still have any idea of public sentiment and opinion anymore? If the local authorities proposed building a freeway extension thru a swamp, uh, 'wetlands', and they got bags of snail mail from concerned citizens opposed to the plan, wouldn't the govt. start thinking, "Oh, this is just another one of those fake mail campaigns from a few wackos with access to Internet databases".

Re:Is this a crime? (1)

James Foster (226728) | about 13 years ago | (#2207402)

You said it yourself -- its fraud and forgery. It's illegal to sign for other people's packages (especially if they haven't given their approval), likewise, it is illegal to sign other people's letters (especially if they haven't given their approval).
Put simply, you cannot ever legally forge someone's signature. Although it's technically illegal, many people might do it with someone elses approval and as such that never becomes a legal issue. Here, Microsoft, if found guilty, are breaking the law, not due to a technicality but due to their fraudulent intent.
It's a crime.

Re:Is this a crime? (2)

bero-rh (98815) | about 13 years ago | (#2207414)

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.

Funny (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2207303)

Microsoft has tried to cheat people before, but apparently they did not learn anything from the experience. Why dosen't Gates figure it out, its harder than you think to fool the Feds.

LOL. (2)

Ron Harwood (136613) | about 13 years ago | (#2207304)

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?

Are microsoft to blame? (1)

mgblst (80109) | about 13 years ago | (#2207307)

Maybe its the US postal service we should be blaming?? I find it very hard to believe that microsoft would stoop this low.

Re:Are microsoft to blame? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2207340)

Please, someone mod this +1, funny!

No more windows (1)

oob (131174) | about 13 years ago | (#2207395)

Trolls like this dork make me think that /. should disallow posts from browsers running IE.

Misleading (5, Informative)

Satai (111172) | about 13 years ago | (#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?)

Re:Misleading (1)

overturf (193264) | about 13 years ago | (#2207325)

Someone please mod this up. It's the first useful post in this story.

Re:Misleading (1)

GiorgioG (225675) | about 13 years ago | (#2207397)

I must say that Slashdot really needs to cool it with this anti-MS shit. My take on it is that the Linux community wants to bash MS until Linux becomes the #1 platform (for whatever market desktop, server, etc.) A classic game of "king of the hill" - and that is when we will find out how much bullshit occurs in the OS community.

What am I talking about? Look at the title of this story.

I'm not a Linux user - I can install/setup my hardware/configure the basic services. I'm simply not a big fan of it (yet) to switch over. I would however, rather see stories about Linux software releases, etc., instead of this anti-MS propaganda.

Not Misleading (3, Informative)

twitter (104583) | about 13 years ago | (#2207403)

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!

Re:Misleading (1)

rakjr (18074) | about 13 years ago | (#2207408)

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

"pro-Microsoft" groups, does this mean employees and groups who have received donations? Or does it mean certified ms techies? Each of these groups would have a strong bias. I do not know of any MS Fan Clubs.

This is like people sending in form letters saying a serial killer was a nice guy. MS broke the law right there in court, but I guess the new rule is if the person in charge is named "BILL" (Clinton, Gates,...), you can get away with anything.

In each case the law was thrown out and popular opinion held sway.

With liberty and justice/injustice for those who can afford it.

After years of reading slashdot (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2207310)

The first intelligent phrase ever spoken occurred 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."

Re:After years of reading slashdot (3, Interesting)

Deskpoet (215561) | about 13 years ago | (#2207392)

The first intelligent phrase ever spoken occurred 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."


While I'm reasonably sure this was irony as originally posted, but as this AC notes, there are a lot of people who believe--like Sunday morning Gospel singers--that competition and innovation have actually occured, and this has been a Good Thing.

Now, I'm not blind to the appearance of some major conveniences that have been showered onto rich Westerners, but where is the innovation when it comes to feeding people and protecting the environment? Really, all the tech that AC and people like him fetishize has been handed down from the State-Military Nexus as second-rate gear fit for the consumer masses that paid for the original research that created the tech to start with. I'd hardly call that innovation, and you certainly can't say that Raytheon and Lockheed *compete* for the government contracts that float their boats (unless you call the bidding graft sessions "competition".) In this context, "regulation" has no meaning: who watches the Watchmen?

Comfort and longevity do not equate to happiness and wisdom, even if those wonderful gifts are showered only on those rich enough to afford them.

Not surprising (5, Insightful)

sg3000 (87992) | about 13 years ago | (#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?"

Re:Not surprising (1)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | about 13 years ago | (#2207355)

But when it's Microsoft, most people respond with, "well, what can you do?"

In a sensible world, you could revoke their corporate charter. Existence as a corporation is supposed to be contingent on the public interest.

The law does provide for this, but it almost never happens.

Re:Not surprising (2)

Webmonger (24302) | about 13 years ago | (#2207379)

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.

Once Again, Slashdot Lies (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2207313)

You folks will really do anything to lie about MS, won't you?

The summary says, "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."

But in fact, Microsoft did not send the letters, as is made clear in the story that is linked to in the summary.

Even the letters from dead people were sent not by Microsoft or any of the groups it was using but rather by the FAMILY MEMBERS of the dead people.

Why must Slashdot be run by such fucking morons?

Re:Once Again, Slashdot Lies (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2207357)

Did you somehow disable the use of italic fonts in your browser?

Re:Once Again, Slashdot Lies (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2207359)

You folks will really do anything to lie about MS, won't you?

The summary says, "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."
But in fact, Microsoft did not send the letters, as is made clear in the story that is linked to in the summary.
Even the letters from dead people were sent not by Microsoft or any of the groups it was using but rather by the FAMILY MEMBERS of the dead people.
Why must Slashdot be run by such fucking morons?

Who do you P.R. company bastards think you are posting vial lies and untruths & filth on Slashdot?

Hah! (1)

MissNachos (89129) | about 13 years ago | (#2207314)

This is too funny. I wish I had been a fly on the wall at the meeting where this was brought up and given the go ahead.

(please dont bother to moderate me)

It seems to me.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2207315)

That this behavior should be a FELONY. Much worse
than DMCA and other such nonsense.

split personality (1)

gavlil (255585) | about 13 years ago | (#2207316)

if m$ had been split - each half would be able to blame the other over things like this :-)

Do you expect anything different from M$? (1)

somero (165832) | about 13 years ago | (#2207317)

Do you expect anything different from M$?

Mail fraud? (1)

Ixnert (216084) | about 13 years ago | (#2207318)

Isn't this mail fraud? I mean, the FBI adds mail (or wire) fraud to just about every case they prosecute; it's an incredibly broad statute. And I wouldn't be surprised if these letters were sent over state lines, so it's a federal case...

Re:Mail fraud? (1)

C0vardeAn0nim0 (232451) | about 13 years ago | (#2207332)

Here where I live it's covered by the criminal code. article 171: "false testimony". this means jail...

Do you people read these articles? (1)

chrome koran (177357) | about 13 years ago | (#2207387)

At the risk of being slammed for defending M$ (I'm not - just pointing how incorrect most of these posts are.)...

This is NOT illegal or even fraudulent behavior. According to the article:

"If people express support for Microsoft, they are sent letters to sign, along with handstamped, pre-addressed envelopes to their state attorney general, to President Bush, and to their members of Congress."

While this is certainly misleading in the manner they are doing it, it is far from fraudulent. How does this differ from all the other form letters that people send their congressmen every day? Throughout the Sklyarov case, there have been dozens of form letters out there written by people who encourage you to copy them and send them to your congressman, to Adobe, and to anyone else of importance. When you copy someone else's well-written letter and send it as if it were yours aren't you just saying that you agree with their sentiments and don't need to restate the same thing in your own words? What's the difference between this and signing a carefully worded petition? Isn't that a case of allowing a good writer to craft a statement for you?

While there is no question that this is a more refined way of doing it -- personalizing the letters a bit -- no one is claiming that M$ is sending out these letters directly using other people's names. They are sending a letter to someone, who is then signing the letter and mailing it, thus saying that they agree with the sentiments the letter expresses...just like a petition. While I certainly agree that they are a bunch of sleazes willing to spend millions of marketing dollars on making themselves look like our friends, I don't see how this could be called fraud in any sense of the word.

This is a surprise? (2)

baptiste (256004) | about 13 years ago | (#2207319)

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 :)

Re:This is a surprise? (1)

Herstel (517116) | about 13 years ago | (#2207352)

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 :)

Letters that came from dead folk probably were sent via very slow modem, so the letters are bit late.

Re:This is a surprise? (1)

Herstel (517116) | about 13 years ago | (#2207364)

Including net congestions, no wonder if their mail servers are M$ based. Yup! The story is probably true.

Just another tactic (1)

Arakyd (302801) | about 13 years ago | (#2207320)

Unfortunately this is simply another tactic in a corporation's arsenal. Legislation is a very powerful weapon, and companies that get on the right side of decisions reap enormous benefits. Just look at farmers. You can't expect companies to not use such a huge, efficient tool, big companies like Microsoft really have to to survive. Microsoft is smart enough to see where the real power is, and they will keep attempting to influence government any way they can so long as government can change the rules of our so called "free market" at any time. With the right legeslation you can destroy a competitor.

There is no need to be good at the game when you can change the rules. As long as our government remains the way it is, this will never change.

Well done, Microsoft! (1)

Jeppe Salvesen (101622) | about 13 years ago | (#2207322)

I bet this will go over really well in the courts!

It is very fortunate that most people who do something bad, and are in danger of getting caught, attempt to cover up their crime. That way, it gets quite a bit easier to spot the deliberate criminal.

What next Bill ... (1)

Object Relational (461869) | about 13 years ago | (#2207323)

Gunning for the Presidency ?

Excess Regulation (4, Insightful)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | about 13 years ago | (#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.

ummm... ever hear of 'sarcasm'? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2207349)

better check your sarcasm alert system... it appears to be broken.

Re:Excess Regulation (1)

secher (7879) | about 13 years ago | (#2207390)

Err, I think that is called sarcasm?

Re:Excess Regulation (2)

(void*) (113680) | about 13 years ago | (#2207399)

Hey read the article. CmdrTaco was trying to be sarcastic by using those exact same words as in those astroturfing letters.

bunch of amateurs (1)

steve.m (80410) | about 13 years ago | (#2207328)

You'd think their dirty tricks dept. would have been a bit smarter than to get caught like that.... oops...

The dead giveaway... (1)

NeoTron (6020) | about 13 years ago | (#2207329)

[Letter No.1 ...]

"Dear attorney General, Microsoft is great!! Resistance is Futile. Joe Bloggs." ...

[Letter No.2 ...]

"To the Attorney General, Microsoft is the best!! Resistance is Futile. Mary Jane." ...

[Letter No.3 ...]

"FTAO: Attorney General : I wish people would stop picking on Microsoft, it's a wonderfull company!! Resistance is Futile. A Borg."...

[Letter No.4....ad nasuem...

*snigger*

2015 (1)

tahpot (237053) | about 13 years ago | (#2207330)

CNN Microsoft AOL Time Warner Mc Donalds start writing letters to the goverment using fake ID's.... hang on, why bother? They'll be able to control what's on TV, the Internet, Magazines etc. So no-one will be the wiser.

Shortage of supporters (2)

Brento (26177) | about 13 years ago | (#2207331)

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.

Of course there are death people (1)

jsse (254124) | about 13 years ago | (#2207334)

but fortunately reboot can help.

Tell me this... (3, Insightful)

Wind_Walker (83965) | about 13 years ago | (#2207335)

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... (1)

riven1128 (448744) | about 13 years ago | (#2207345)

but .. but they are bad!

Re:Tell me this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2207378)

Clearly microsoft has established a pattern of behavior that transcends one person.

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

Mister Attack (95347) | about 13 years ago | (#2207401)

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.

Re:Tell me this... (1)

fymidos (512362) | about 13 years ago | (#2207411)

well propably just a few people did it, they can't have 500 people on this (unless they really used word for this )..

but the people are not to blame .

if they are microsoft employees, "mis-interpreting orders" they should be fired (and we can ask them their opinion later).

but the company is still the one to blame.

>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.

indeeeeed !!! only they did say they are "responding to the lobbying efforts of competitors" .

the facts are all here, /me thinks ....

Ha, you should (-1, Troll)

Haxxor Extraordinair (517309) | about 13 years ago | (#2207336)

read more CNN.

IT'S GOATSE.CX, THE SIG IMPERSONATES LINK HELPER. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2207362)

I must say it's quite smart.

heh! Nothing new there (2, Funny)

twitter (104583) | about 13 years ago | (#2207337)

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.

Spend the money on your product... (1)

dodson (248550) | about 13 years ago | (#2207338)

I know this is a bit naive, but it never ceases to amaze me how much large companies end up spending on marketing, lobbying, litigation and now fake grass roots.

If these large companies spent half what they spend trying to protect a market for existing product, and instead develop improved and varied products, they would never be in danger of declining profits.

More and more I believe that large corporations are less examples of free market Darwinism and are more akin to a nice big bureaucracy where you rise to the level of your incompetence.

anyone here read slashdot? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2207339)

its a pretty cool site, you should check it out.

Re:anyone here read slashdot? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2207366)

Dear Mr Jack Haulf

Thank you for your kind words in the letter you sent, dated the 72th of Froophlarnesh, year 7. Unfortunately, we don't carry the model 83-XE super-sucking penis pump and washing machine combination any longer. It has been superceded by part # 229FAG-U, which has only two inputs instead of the normal three. Please stay in touch.

Lt. Brig. Cpt. John D Eisenhower XIV

IANAL... (3, Interesting)

Psarchasm (6377) | about 13 years ago | (#2207341)

Is there a mail fraud case in this?

Astromailing ?! (1)

hal0802 (240758) | about 13 years ago | (#2207343)

I knew Astrosurfing, I learned that word when I saw that story on /. about M$ posting pro-M$ messages in internet forums :
should we call this Astromailing ?

Re:Astromailing ?! (2)

cyberdonny (46462) | about 13 years ago | (#2207393)

> I knew Astrosurfing,

No, it's not Astrosurfing, but rather Astroturfing, as in "fake grassroots movement". (Astroturf is fake lawn).

Well great, there's an opportunity right there. (1)

trevry (225903) | about 13 years ago | (#2207344)

If Microsoft want people to send letters to their attorney general, President Bush and their local congressman, then I think that Slashdot reader should oblige and do, JUST THAT. Send letters to your attorney general, President Bush and your local congressman and explain how Microsoft should be hemmed in and how you feel that the future lies in open source.
DO IT, DO IT NOW
You'll fell much better, plus you'll be helping 'ol Billy boy out with those letters.

not surprising at all... (1)

buzban (227721) | about 13 years ago | (#2207347)

"There's been a political campaign waged against Microsoft for a number of years by well-funded, special-interest companies ..." said Microsoft spokesman Vivek Varma. "It's not surprising that companies and organizations that support Microsoft are mobilizing to counter that lobby."

Nor is it surprising that, absent that support, microsoffet would fabricate it.

But those companies say they haven't tried to drum up activism by the public.

methinks that none of them has attempted to 'mine' the dead vote, either...

sadly submitted from my MS box. ;)

Hardly a new tactic (1)

bzcpcfj (308756) | about 13 years ago | (#2207360)

After getting over my knee-jerk reaction of Those-Microsoft-scumbags-have-done-it-again, I got to thinking of the many times over the years that I've listened to Presidential Press Secretaries talk about "telegrams" pouring in to the White House in strong support of whatever unpopular decision the sitting President just had to announce.

This sort of thing is as old as politics. Business and politics have been intertwined since there have been business and politics. Read William Manchester's book "The Arms of Krupp" to see what real lobbying is all about.

I suspect that what is making the Attornys-General really unhappy is that they see the Microsoft anti-trust case slipping away. While MS will certainly be penalized (since the findings of fact have been upheld), their delaying tactics will, in the long run, probably force Justice to negotiate another agreement that MS can start ignoring five minutes after it's signed.

Can you believe it. (3, Interesting)

linuxpng (314861) | about 13 years ago | (#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.

Wasted time (1)

scott1853 (194884) | about 13 years ago | (#2207368)

You'd think that with all the time Microsoft saves on security testing, they could spend it on being exceptionally deceitful instead of just doing it half-assed.

Devil's advocate position... (3, Insightful)

weave (48069) | about 13 years ago | (#2207371)

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.

Oh dear (1)

The_Jazzman (45650) | about 13 years ago | (#2207372)

Yet again Microsoft has seemed to manage to let us down again, which is a great shame.

This is the shining example of why open-source is so great: we have no need to use such negative propaganda. No ! We produce such great software that it screams from the heights of the skyscrapers, yet without a single person uttering it.

Yes, it truly resonates around the planet.

I am an avid supported of the open-source movement, using Windows 2000 at work, and running MacOS at home. I like the flexibility and the amount of options that open-source brings. So why does Microsoft have to go and ruin the open-source movement's name with something like this ?
MS has been producing quality open-source software for what ? Twenty years ?

WHY do they have to tarnish out name with this ?
It's absolutely pointless ? Or is it ? If they start doing this then they'll start being laughed at more and more. This is a good thing.

Then the true commercial success story, Linux, will jump to the desktop prooving one again that you can't trust open-source software such as windows, No you can't at all.

Linux shall only get stronger from this kind of press.

Bill Gates should try for presidency (2)

Matthias Wiesmann (221411) | about 13 years ago | (#2207373)

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...

Much less (and more) evil than it sounds (2)

imadork (226897) | about 13 years ago | (#2207374)

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...

Not too bright are you? (1)

cdrudge (68377) | about 13 years ago | (#2207376)

Quietly distributed by another Microsoft-supported group, Citizens Against Government Waste, those letters were identical except for the signature.

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."

So let me get this straight. You sign your name to a letter Microsoft sends you to mail to your state's attorney general. Then when your letter is questioned, you plead innocent saying you were misled and then ask the AG to "kick butt"? Hello? Do you sign everything people put in front of you without questioning it or at least understand what you are signing. Nevermind. Don't answer.

necromancy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2207377)

i knew bill gates was eveil, but raising the dead?
it just makes me think of some b horror movie...
bill gates and his army of undead vs the lawyers...
which one is the protagonist?

I'm going to (2)

jsse (254124) | about 13 years ago | (#2207381)

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?

Doesn't this stuff happen every day? (1)

nihilvt (212452) | about 13 years ago | (#2207385)

Don't we see similiar things happening on TV? Don't we see commercials where celebrities are obviously paid to "love" a product? Don't we watch weight-loss commercials where people claim that the new magical weight loss product was responsible for their 300 lb drop? Does George Foreman love his little grilling trinkets solely because they are "high quality"?

Grass-roots specialists typically charge $25 to $75 for each letter from ordinary citizens and much more for letters from public officials or celebrities, said Nancy Clack of Precision Communications, a political communications company.
Apparently this happens regularly. Why aren't getting angry at the angency that makes a business out of these desceptive tactics as well as being angry at Microsoft? YES I agree that it's pretty dirty on account of MS. I agree that it's very misleading. However, I don't agree with the immediate slashdot bias placed on microsoft. It this News for Nerds? Or is it Editorials for Nerds? Mod me down for a trolling if you please.

Example (1)

Spotless Tiger (467911) | about 13 years ago | (#2207386)

Dear Attorney General,

I but a humble gas station attendant. I earn a dollar an hour pumping gas for the Mobil-Exxon corporation, which I use to support my fifteen children and my wife. I often serve gas to big politicians, driving around in their Lincoln limosines and fancy corporate jets, and know that there is a gap between the concerns of ordinary people like me and the government.

As an ordinary person, average in every way, I wish to express my concern about the continued poor treatment of Microsoft, a company that makes great, innovative software. Why should Microsoft be penalised for being successful? Why should Microsoft be denied the right to innovate, a right they use to produce great products like Windows 98, Microsoft Word, and Excel? Would you rather have a world where operating systems, word processors, and spreadsheets don't exist?

While I have never used one of Microsoft's great products, I know that Microsoft software is, thanks to their freedom to innovate, the fuel that makes the American Capitalist System run. As a gas pump operator, I am all to aware of what happens when you don't put fuel into something. Imagine a future where an office worker is unable to write an Excel macro, or a stockbroker unable to create a shortcut on his desktop to a often accessed directory, simply because the government has forced Microsoft to put America Online icons everywhere.

In summary, I would like to close by saying that this is why ordinary, honest, hard working Americans such as myself support Microsoft's freedom to innovate, and their right to create great products.

PS: My wife here - please don't respond to this letter, as my husband's just died. But it's a real letter, honest.

\. Hypocritical? Here is the evidence! (1, Interesting)

Figec (20690) | about 13 years ago | (#2207388)

"We here at Slashdot would like to take the time to say that ... the technology sector must remain free from excess regulation. "

Why is it that when it comes to anything that has to do with society, the \. editors (yes, the slash leans left on purpose) push forward an authoritarian and often socialist view of government regulation and initiative, but when it comes to technology, the goverment must stay out of the equation? (I take "excess regulation" to mean anything that encroaches upon the freedoms of the producers and consumers to operate without fraud).

Why is it so hard to draw the same conclusion that the government that governs least, governs best when it comes to other issues besides Microsoft?

Reasonable people usually want the same things, but often it is difficult to shed the shackles of years of misguidence from politicos to discover that the methodolgy to allow for the discovery of the solutions to the ills of our world is usually brilliantly simple: don't force anyone at the point of a gun to do anything unless that action infringes upon the inherint freedoms of someone else, and society as a whole will generally stumble upon a cheap (in terms of ALL costs, not just dollars or deutchmarks) solution.

In the case of Microsoft, I often differ from my fellow libertarians. Microsoft has engaged in fraud for over 15 years and continues to do so. This is not to be tolerated and is deserving of punishment as fraud is indeed a way of infringing upon the rights of others. In a free society, Microsoft wouldn't enjoy the tacit protection of government allowing it to continue its march towards market domination. I submit that free (as in speech) innovation and its truthful promotion in consumer computer technology would lead to cheaper, stabler and more useful solutions than the quagmire we suffer from today. Unfortunately, we the people depend upon the StAGs and the Justice Department to do our policing for us. Their inefficiencies have allowed Microsoft to defraud the consumers, its partners, and its competition, and as the Wheels of Justice grind ever so slowly, Microsoft has a free hand to continue its nefarious deeds.

So, yes, I agree with the \. editors statement but I wish that they would realize that it follows true on their other topics as well.

Now we know what to do (1)

bflong (107195) | about 13 years ago | (#2207389)

Everyone here who thinks that Microsoft should be pummeled for the things they have done needs to write a letter. Do not type it, hand write it (unless your handwriting and spelling are that bad). Use your own words. Give the guys in charge a letter from the trenches. Tell them how you personaly, and the companies you work for, have been affected by Micosofts monopoly. Remember, you don't have to convice the feds that Microsoft is a monopoly; it's been proven in court. Tell them what you think is the best solution but don't say it's the only one. Get the point across that *something* must be done. Lets see if the slashdot effect can be extended to snail-mail. :)

You can be sure that I'll be sending a few letters.

I got one of these in the mail. (1)

prisoner (133137) | about 13 years ago | (#2207391)

It was from the pro-microsoft group and was essentially a pre-written letter, complete with a stamped envelope. All I had to do was sign it and send it off. I chose, instead, to consign it to the tender mercies of the waste-management industry....

Outlook (1)

lmendes (517321) | about 13 years ago | (#2207394)

Maybe it's just a cool new feature in Outlook Express.. every time you check your e-mail it automatically sends a message to them saying "Bill, I love you !!".

IANAL, but is this libel? (2)

mikeage (119105) | about 13 years ago | (#2207406)

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.

Big Deal (1)

mESSDan (302670) | about 13 years ago | (#2207407)

This is going to sound like a Troll but, everyone with a Political Agenda does stuff like this. Being actively lobbied against is kind of like copyright infringement. You have to attack/lobby back if you ever want to protect yourself or your companies image.

Do you really think that the companies who are helping the justice department aren't doing things like this? It's mentioned in the article that Oracle got caught when they hired a PI to check a "Pro-Microsoft" companie's garbage.

One choice quote below:
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."
Tell me, what ISN'T sleazy about politics? Lobbying is anything but ethical, so that makes any form of politics ethical.
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