BLOG: Brown envelope journalism: Google and Oracle paid off bloggers for their opinion?

A judge has ruled that Oracle and Google must reveal the names of bloggers and reporters that they’ve paid.   The demand was made in the US in response to an intellectual property case being fought out in court.  The judge says that he is “concerned” about financial influence of information that is ultimately printed out on the Internet.

The companies have until August 17 to reveal the list.

Oracle filed a copyright challenge against Google, alleging that the company owes it a billion dollars for the use of its Android Operating System.  The jury, however, ruled that the patents had not been breached.

When it comes to revealing financial relationships with bloggers, Oracle says that it’s “always disclosed all of its financial relationships in this matter, and it is time for Google to do the same”.

Bloggers are regularly paid by companies if their blogs are influential.  One example is Florian Mueller, a patent consultant in Germany.  Although he admits that he was paid by Oracle, he says that he was never told what to say.

“There was never any request to say please do this or that,” he said.

“We agreed I would still express my views and pick my topics. I wrote all the blog posts independently, and they did not see draft posts.”

But even though companies may not explicitly state that they would like a specific type of content, this “soft influence” worries some who feel that paying off members of Internet media has become the norm.

Tim Luckhurst, professor of journalism at the University of Kent, says that this case says a great deal about what’s been happening with corruption in Internet media.

“One of the key aspects that this highlights is the crucial difference between bloggers and professional journalists,” he said.

“Journalists are professionals who understand their obligation to their listeners and viewers – not the interested parties about which they are writing. Many bloggers ignore that distinction.”


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