Former TTAC moderator comes forward, says he witnessed on-line shilling by GM, other OEMs

Picture courtesy Tanzania Central Bank

Summer 2009 was a heady time for auto blogs and their readers. Michigan auto and parts companies were falling faster than their share prices. The termites of foreign and domestic competition, intransigent executive management, careless lending, and poor product ate away the foundations of General Motors, Chrysler, and, to a lesser-extent, Ford, until the debt crisis bubble pop brought these mighty corporations tumbling down.

Understandably, playing defense against their myriad opponents—former customers put off by shoddy quality, PR minions of crosstown- or cross-state rivals, bloggers who had a voice and found an audience for some hard truths, and lowly trolls who infect any story with a comments section with their barely-literate ramblings—beleaguered employees started fighting back in the comments sections of various auto blogs, including The Truth About Cars. [Continue Reading]

The RenCen Commentaries: Background and Analysis

GM_Entrace_Niedermeyer Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt

When Bertel first told me he had traced a large numbers of comments at The Truth About Cars to I.P numbers owned by General Motors, the revelation didn’t immediately floor me. TTAC has long prided itself on its knowledgeable and industry-savvy commenters, and various industry insiders have been known to leave comments there. On a certain level, getting comments from inside any automaker is simply a sign of TTAC’s influence in the industry.

But as the scope and specifics of Bertel’s findings were made clear to me, I quickly came to the conclusion that they deserved a public hearing. After all, the evidence suggests that multiple employees of a publicly-owned company anonymously trolled and shilled on a critical website, all from company headquarters. If nothing else, people seem confused about the ethical complexities of online advocacy, and a conversation about the issue appears in order.

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