Olympic astroturfing

I got a strange comment on my blog yesterday. It was on an old posting about the cost of the Olympic logo, see here.

Come on! It is not so bad! I am proud and excited about the Olympics coming to London. I found a good post about London Olympics. It looks like we are preparing well for this event! Can’t wait!

I thought that it looked suspicious. The use of three exclamation marks has to be a give away. So I checked the IP address of the poster. Apparently “King” works for TradeDoubler who do “performance-based digital marketing”. The comment looks like astroturfing to me.

It seems that Visit Britain, an agency of the Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), has been paying a marketing/PR agency to astroturf a councillor’s blog. It seems that some person at TradeDoubler thought that my aged comment might be negative and in need of a positive counterweight. DCMS give Visit Britain £48 million a year. It seems some genuis thinks that they are protecting the London Olympics with this kind of underhand crap, paid for by the public purse.

The London Olympics will be great but this kind of antic will mess them up. Stop now.

Update: According to an e-mail from Marcia Oliver, General Counsel of Visit Britain today (20th July):

I have made enquiries with VisitBritain’s Digital Marketing Department and noone is aware of any marketing activity with Trade Doubler. Our Accounts Department has also confirmed that no payments have ever been made to Trade Doubler and it does not feature on our supplier list. We have absolutely no idea why Trade Doubler should be responding to your blog and providing a link to the VisitBritain site.

I guess I had better ask DCMS!


International Olympic Committee changes UK borders

I have spent another morning transfixed by the Olympics and the cyclists in particular.

I watched “Irishman” Paddy Barnes win his quarter-final of the men’s light flyweight boxing in good style, in the process guaranteeing himself a bronze medal, but I could not understand why a Belfast man was fighting for Ireland. All was explained by this posting on the Cranmer blog. I don’t agree with some of his points (Scottish cyclist Chris Hoy’s three golds make a mockery of his penultimate paragraph) but I hadn’t realised that our Sinn Féin appeasing Labour government has conspired with the IOC to allow Ireland to annex Northern Ireland, at least on the sports field.

Who voted for that?


Olympic blog gag

As a blogger myself and someone who is interested in institutional accountability and transparency I have spent sometime this morning looking at the website of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). I can’t find any financial information or minutes of executive board meetings or of their “Sessions” which are basically the AGMs of the IOC. If anyone knows where you can find this stuff please point it out to me and save me from having to write to request this information from the IOC.

In my search I did though find the IOC’s blogging guidelines for Beijing here. They are pretty constraining. You can only write about yourself or use a photo of yourself and if you transgress by talking about any other participant they threaten to take your Olympic identity and accreditation card away. So we won’t hear any stories of IOC bigwigs throwing hissy fits or “Count” Jacques Rogge, IOC President, picking his nose.

Apparently blogs need to be “be dignified and in good taste” and “at all times conform to the Olympic spirit and the fundamental principles of Olympism”. Sounds like censorship to me.

The IOC keeps an iron grip on the way the Olympics and they themselves are portrayed. For instance Rule 49, Bye-law 2 of the Olympic Charter says:

Only those persons accredited as media may act as journalists, reporters or in any other media capacity. Under no circumstances, throughout the duration of the Olympic Games, may any athlete, coach, official, press attaché or any other accredited participant act as a journalist or in any other media capacity.

The accreditation process and long memories allow them to control what accredited journalists say and their rules don’t allow anyone to compete with accredited journalists. This kind of authoritarian approach might be in keeping with 20th century totalitarian states but not with the modern world. Will London be different?