This is a ridiculous scenario, and the lead from a USA Today story
about it says it all:
“A USA Today reporter and editor investigating Pentagon propaganda contractors have themselves been subjected to a propaganda campaign of sorts, waged on the Internet through a series of bogus websites.”
After Pentagon reporter Tom Vanden Brook started asking questions in January about government-backed marketing campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan—which cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars—a website bearing Vanden Brook’s name, as well as fake social media accounts, showed up online.
A similar website created by the same company appeared weeks later when the byline of Vanden Brook's editor, Ray Locker, appeared with a story.
If the smear campaign was paid for with taxpayer money, it could violate a federal law, according to USA Today
. The Pentagon has denied knowledge of any activity.
Journalists and public relations profiles alike voiced their concern on Twitter about the allegations. Jay Rosen, a journalism professor at New York University, said
it was “creepy” and “scary.” Another Twitter user called the approach “ham-fisted”
The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) said the misinformation campaign is a “disturbing example of unethical” PR.
“In a society that is grounded in the principle of freedom of the press it is unfortunate that those working within or on behalf of the U.S. government would go to such lengths to attempt to subvert the dissemination of information that the
public has a right to know,” said PRSA’s Keith Trivitt.
He said the PRSA is “disturbed” by the allegations and hopes that the federal government takes “every step necessary to investigate the matter and
ensure the protection of reporters' and editors' constitutional right to
report any and all information, no matter how embarrassing it may be to
certain government agencies or contractors.”