How much would you pay for a favorable opinion?

From Dan Gillmor’s eJournalOpinion Laundering Thrives.

  • Tim Lambert: When Think Tanks Attack. Why
    are all these think tanks so down on Open Source? Well, the Small
    Business Survival Committee is concerned that using open source will
    expose small business to the risk of lawsuits. Citizens Against
    Government Waste is concerned that the Government might waste money on
    Open Source. Defenders of Property Rights is concerned that Open Source
    might be a threat to intellectual property rights. However, I was able
    to detect a common theme to all their criticism. They all seem to be
    funded by Microsoft.

“This piece isn’t absolute proof, but it’s another layer of circumstantial evidence that Microsoft is continuing its campaign of what I’ve called “opinion laundering” to make a case against LInux and other free software. (See previous  looks at this subject here, here and here, for example.) Microsoft is hardly alone in this activity, of course. Lambert’s article looks into the tobacco archives and shows how major think tanks were paid by tobacco companies  and took positions congruent with the tobacco interests’ own views. The bigger problem is that we often don’t know who is funding which think tank, and many won’t tell us. Even the ones that do say they’re getting some money from companies like Microsoft won’t say how much. If the “contribution” is .001 percent of annual funding, that’s trivial. If it’s 50 percent, that’s not trivial. But we are never told this relevant information. None of this is illegal, but it’s definitely sleazy. We need laws, not that this Congress or administration will every touch the topic, to force think tanks to reveal the sources and amounts of their funding in amounts over, say, $500. That would let individuals continue to contribute in privacy, but would shine a needed light on the opinion laundering that is now so prevalent. In the meantime, when a think tank takes any position on just about anything, your first instinct should be to ask, “Did someone pay for that opinion?” — Dan Gillmor

Some people accuse me of being an “Open Source zealot” (thanks, btw), but at least my opinion is not for sale to the highest bidder.


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This work by Ted Roche is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States.