Fox News' PR War Was Waged With Anonymous Commenters and an AOL Dial-Up Connection

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Oct. 21 2013 9:48 AM

Fox News' PR War Was Waged With Anonymous Commenters and an AOL Dial-Up Connection

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Chairman & CEO, FOX News Roger Ailes speaks onstage during the 2006 Summer Television Critics Association Press Tour for the FOX Broadcasting Company at the Ritz-Carlton Huntington Hotel on July 24, 2006 in Pasadena, California

Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik's 384-page look at Rupert Murdoch, Murdoch's World: The Last of the Old Media Empires, officially hits bookstore shelves tomorrow, but Media Matters is already flagging a juicy Fox News nugget from an early copy of the book, namely how the conservative news outlet had its PR staff post "pro-Fox rants" in the comment section of negative, or even neutral, blog posts about the network:

On the blogs, the fight was particularly fierce. Fox PR staffers were expected to counter not just negative and even neutral blog postings but the anti-Fox comments beneath them. One former staffer recalled using twenty different aliases to post pro-Fox rants. Another had one hundred. Several employees had to acquire a cell phone thumb drive to provide a wireless broadband connection that could not be traced back to a Fox News or News Corp account. Another used an AOL dial-up connection, even in the age of widespread broadband access, on the rationale it would be harder to pinpoint its origins. Old laptops were distributed for these cyber operations. Even blogs with minor followings were reviewed to ensure no claim went unchecked. 
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Folkenflik's sources—"four former Fox News employees"—say the network waged its assault on the comment section in the mid-to-late 00s, although it's unclear whether it's still using the tactic.

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Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

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