Stay Free Magazine passed on a report of 'astroturfing' from the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) yesterday. A popular spoof of Al Gore's film, An Inconvenient Truth, showing on YouTube.com was apparently created and publicized by Exxon's public relations company. The Wall Street Journal writes:
In the video, Mr. Gore appears as a sinister figure who brainwashes penguins and bores movie audiences by blaming the Mideast crisis and starlet Lindsay Lohan's shrinking waist size on global warming. Like other videos on the popular YouTube site, it has a home-made, humorous quality. The video's maker is listed as "Toutsmith," a 29-year-old who identifies himself as being from Beverly Hills in an Internet profile.
In an email exchange with The Wall Street Journal, Toutsmith didn't answer when asked who he was or why he made the video, which has just over 59,000 views on YouTube. However, computer routing information contained in an email sent from Toutsmith's Yahoo account indicate it didn't come from an amateur working out of his basement.
Instead, the email originated from a computer registered to DCI Group, a Washington, D.C., public relations and lobbying firm whose clients include oil company Exxon Mobil Corp.
A DCI Group spokesman declines to say whether or not DCI made the anti-Gore penguin video, or to explain why Toutsmith appeared to be sending email from DCI's computers. "DCI Group does not disclose the names of its clients, nor do we discuss the work that we do on our clients' behalf," says Matt Triaca, who heads DCI's media relations shop...
Traffic to the penguin video, first posted on YouTube.com in May, got a boost from prominently placed sponsored links that appeared on the Google search engine when users typed in "Al Gore" or "Global Warming." The ads, which didn't indicate who had paid for them, were removed shortly after The Wall Street Journal contacted DCI Group on Tuesday.
Update: Video Review - Whatever DCI paid toutsmith was way too much money! Although I suppose the childish stupidity of the video, and the Linux penguins, will appeal to some.