Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 1st Feb 2017 18:15 UTC

Earlier today, The Irish Times ran an "article" titled "Brussels broke the rules in its pursuit of Apple's €13bn". That sounds serious, and would definitely have you click. Once you do, you read an article written by "Liza Lovdahl-Gormsen" without any sources, which is basically an almost word-for-word rehash of letters and answers from Tim Cook about the tax deal. The lack of sources and Tim Cook-ery tone of the piece should set off thousands of huge and loud alarm bells in anyone's mind, but it isn't until the very last paragraph of the "article" that the reader stumbles upon this:

Liza Lovdahl-Gormsen is director of the Competition Law Forum and senior research fellow in competition law. This article was commissioned from her by Apple and supplied to The Irish Times

Pathetic and disingenuous at best, intentionally misleading and ethically reprehensible at worst. The fact that the biggest, richest, and most powerful company in the world has to resort to this kind of unethical behaviour should tell you all you need to know about how certain Apple is of its own claims about the tax deal.

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RE[5]: Show me the receipts
by StephenBeDoper on Thu 2nd Feb 2017 16:56 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: Show me the receipts"
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An advertisement is when someone pays for space. An op-ed is when the editor decides to run a story written by an outside author, often from a controversial viewpoint, not endorsed by the editorial board, and rarely if ever paid for.

There's also a third practice, called "native advertising":

In many cases, it manifests as either an article or video, produced by an advertiser with the specific intent to promote a product, while matching the form and style which would otherwise be seen in the work of the platform's editorial staff.


While you're technically correct ("the best kind of correct!") that it isn't literal advertisement, since the publication wasn't paid to run it - but it's clearly not a typical op-ed either. Normally those are either written by third-parties who aren't directly involved, or they're done like the Oracle op-ed on ArsTechnica that you referenced - where it's written by someone who is directly involved, and that fact is clearly & prominently disclosed. In that Oracle op-ed, that fact is disclosed in the first sentence of the first paragraph of the article, formatted in a way that's distinct from the body of the op-ed - as opposed the very last sentence of the Irish Times article, where the disclosure is part of the body of the op-ed.

I mentioned native advertising because this seems like attempt to accomplish the same ends, but in a more surreptitious, at-arms-length fashion. The obvious question is: why did Apple pay a third-party to write that op-ed, rather than having someone from Apple write it - surely that would have been easier for them, right? So what do they stand to gain by commissioning a third-party to write that op-ed instead? The only reason I can think of is that they expected people would be less-likely to dismiss the article as advertising/paid advocacy, if it appeared to come from an independent, unbiased third-party.

That said, even if the Irish Time wasn't paid to run the article, I think they do still deserve a significant share of the blame: for not disclosing more prominently that it was paid advocacy, and for un-critically running it as an op-ed in the first place.

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