Telecom Industry’s Imaginary Book Critics Try to Discredit Susan Crawford

Jul 30, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

The more the telecommunications industry tries to discredit Roosevelt Institute Fellow Susan Crawford, the stronger her work looks.

It’s always entertaining to watch when the opposition is clearly worried about something you’re working on, but it’s less fun when they try to smear you and misrepresent your work. When you can prove that’s what they’re up to? Then it comes full circle, and it’s amusing again.

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Susan Crawford works on telecommunications equality, and her book Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age came out in January. Susan’s book breaks down how telecommunications monopolies are keeping the United States from creating real nationwide access to high-speed Internet. Of course, the telecommunications industry isn’t such a fan of Susan’s work. Two recent New York Times op-eds, one by the CEO of Verizon, singled her out for “repeat[ing] outdated statistics” on broadband speed and international rankings of high-speed access. You can read her response to their claims here at Next New Deal.

This week, Mike Masnick of techdirt noticed that the attempts to discredit Susan were going beyond the Times to her Amazon reviews. At the time of his data collection, there were 31 one-star reviews, and they all followed a pretty specific pattern. These reviewers mention having an average American job, living in a rural area, and how fantastic their Internet access is, complete with lobbyist talking points about the wireless revolution and high-speed access. Masnick went a step further and checked whether reviewers were verified purchasers, were enrolled in Amazon’s “REAL NAME” program, or had any other reviews. Only 35 percent of the one-star reviews seem to be from real people.

It seems that in addition to distorted newspaper op-eds, the telecommunications industry is now attempting to discredit Susan by combining the age-old technique of astroturfing (creating faux grassroots campaigns) with fake Amazon reviews. Susan continues to stand her ground against Big Telco, and the more desperate her critics get, the more it looks like she’s winning.

Rachel Goldfarb is the Roosevelt Institute Communications Associate.

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