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Google discloses list of 'possible' astroturf writers

updated 03:47 pm EDT, Sat August 25, 2012

Search giant does not admit it paid writers to comment on case

While Google continues to claim that it has not paid any writers to directly report or comment on the Oracle versus Google lawsuit, in response to a second judicial order the search engine and advertising giant has provided a list of individuals and groups who have commented on the case and have, possibly coincidentally, received money from the company. The list includes Google lawyer William Patry, Java creator James Gosling, and Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) overseer Ed Black.

Two weeks ago, Judge William Alsup unexpectedly ordered Oracle and Google to disclose anybody who was paid to comment on the case. A week later, Oracle named one blogger - FOSSpatents' Florian Mueller, who had previously publicly disclosed his consulting relationship with the company. Google claimed that it was "perhaps impossible" to list everyone, due to the ubiquitousness of its AdSense advertising network and an interpretation of the order that anyone who received any money from Google in any way should be listed.

The judge told the company that his order "was designed to bring to light authors whose statements about the issues in the case might have been influenced by the receipt of money from Google or Oracle," and that this did not include authors who didn't have a direct relationship with Google. The judge ended his order by rebuffing Google's earlier claim that such a list was impossible, saying "simply do your best, but the impossible is not required." He added, "Oracle managed to do it."

One legal scholar at Santa Clara University, Eric Goldman, expressed both support and concern in a tweet regarding the order, saying that "all judges should order this" but also asking "is it Constitutional?"

Alsup may be taking a stand on bloggers who receive money to write sponsored posts masquerading as legitimate opinion, also known as astro-turfers. FTC regulations as set forth in the 16 CFR 255 instruction requiring Internet endorsers to disclose if they are writing a "sponsored post."



By Electronista Staff
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  1. Zanziboy

    Forum Regular

    Joined: 08-27-08

    One legal scholar at Santa Clara University, Eric Goldman, expressed both support and concern in a tweet regarding the order, saying that "all judges should order this" but also asking "is it Constitutional?"

    How could disclosing that a witness could be biased based on their contactual relationship with other parties be unconstitutional? Isn't this aspect of the law covered by reasonable discovery?

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