The Internet shills: Automotive News confirms GM’s war on words, visits its command center

The war room - Picture courtesy

A month after the Daily Kanban broke the story about GM operatives who were systematically, albeit a bit clumsily, subverting the comment section of a large U.S. car blog, GM decided to get, if not in front of the story, then at least behind it. GM gave David Barkholz of Automotive News access to its “social media command center,”  from where GM runs its war on words. [Continue Reading]

A week after: GM responds to serial shilling allegations, while car blogs remain silent

We see, hear, write, do nothing  - actually, we aren't really here

A week after we broke the story about GM’s serial shilling, the media writes, GM answers, but the blogosphere looks the other way. Over the years, more than 3,000 anonymous comments were left on from what looked like GM computers. When I started researching the story half a year ago, PR professionals and seasoned experts of the social media business assured me that I was onto “the holy grail” of the business. They predicted that the story would trigger a fire storm. They were right and wrong. The story was picked up by Drudge and Instapundit, both good for an avalanche of attention. The story was discussed on Edmunds. As far as the auto blogosphere goes, the story does not exist. Instead of being righteously outraged, the blogosphere is embarrassed, and it sheepishly looks the other way. [Continue Reading]

The RenCen Commentaries: Three Car Monte, and how the game is played

Three car Monte - Picture courtesy

In my six month research into the undercover trolling brigade that used GM computers to leave thousands of comments on, the website both Ed Niedermeyer and I used to run, I talked to a few social media experts that worked for large corporations. Their reaction was universal: They were appalled by the amateurish approach. “But when you are bankrupt, you probably have to do DIY cheating,” quipped an industry executive who had survived carmageddon without government oversight.  In a future article, we will cover how the pros cover their tracks. Today, we write why they usually don’t have to, because the risk of public pilloring is nearly nonexistent. [Continue Reading]

The RenCen Commentaries: A smear campaign in Wikipedia, and mating with monkeys

The target of the smear - Jack Baruth at work

The target of the smear – Jack Baruth at work


In February 2009, when GM’s bankruptcy went into its terminal phase, someone with access to GM’s computer network developed an odd fascination with bicycle racing, and with the life of former bicycle racer and TTAC contributor Jack Baruth. Baruth is currently Editor in Chief of TTAC. At the time, TTAC  looked unfavorably on the bailout. The person with the GM computer started to make unfavorable edits to Jack’s Wikipedia page. [Continue Reading]

The RenCen Commentaries: How GM staffers subvert the blogosphere

Server Room - Picture courtesy

When I started writing for in 2008, I had access to an automated statistic that told us from which ISP our readers dialed-in. According to the stats, surprisingly many people accessed TTAC from their computer at General Motors. On the list, GM ranked right with AT&T and other biggies. TTAC founder Robert Farago, who was on some kind of a GM crusade, was proud that TTAC was so closely read at GM. GM did not stop at reading though. Some of TTAC’s most prolific commenters were and still are working for GM. Thousands of comments left at TTAC originated at General Motors, and from the same IP numbers as used by GM’s PR department. [Continue Reading]