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

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"
StephenBeDoper
Member since:
2005-07-06

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.

- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Native_advertising


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.

Reply Parent Score: 3

RE[6]: Show me the receipts
by galvanash on Thu 2nd Feb 2017 17:42 in reply to "RE[5]: Show me the receipts"
galvanash Member since:
2006-01-25

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.


1st, the title of this thread is "Apple pays newspaper to intentionally mislead readers" which would have been some clever irony for a title had Thom not posted he was actually serious and believes this to be true. I'm responding to that, because it is blatantly false. I'm not "technically correct", I'm absolutely correct.

2nd, it actually is a typical op-ed. It is written by a subject matter expert, about a controversial topic that the news outlet has published about before, and the piece is written from a opposing viewpoint to the editorial staff. It checks all the boxes for a classic op-ed.

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.


How is Dr Liza Lovdahl-Gormsen not directly involved? She has written numerous legal submission to the EC, specifically one concerning Article 82 of the EU Treaty, which is pretty much what this case revolves around. She isn't directly involved with this particular case per se, but she is certainly an invested party as far as the law this case hinges on.

In that Oracle op-ed, that fact is disclosed in the first sentence of the first paragraph


Yada, yada... Yes, bad form. I agree.

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?


You think Apples employs experts in EU law with her credentials? I don't think so... Regardless, I'm certainly not saying Apple wasn't trying to sway public opinion - they obviously were. I'm just saying that "Apple pays newspaper to intentionally mislead readers" is a outright lie.

So what do they stand to gain by commissioning a third-party to write that op-ed instead?


Likelihood of being published for one... The news outlet is much more likely to publish a piece written by a subject matter expert than one written by a corporate PR drone. In fact I would say if Apple had written this there is no way in hell it would have been published...

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.


But op-eds are supposed to be biased. That is kind of the point of them usually. If facts are mentioned they must be accurate, but bias is perfectly fine.

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.


I agree about the disclosure being poorly done, but they have not been uncritical. They have a few pieces (I can no longer access - no subscription), written by their own editors that are extremely critical of Apple on this story. I think, more than likely, they published this specifically because they have been so critical in past articles.

Anyway, nice to speak to someone with a brain for once.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[6]: Show me the receipts
by galvanash on Thu 2nd Feb 2017 19:22 in reply to "RE[5]: Show me the receipts"
galvanash Member since:
2006-01-25

Also, as far as the integrity of the argument she made, read this:

https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2400402

It is a legal opinion she wrote to the EC 7 years ago, and makes many of the same arguments she makes in her article.

I'm not saying she is right, I don't know shit about EU law. I'm only saying there is no question she wrote this article based on her own strongly held opinions of how the law should be enforced (and of course this aligns favorably with Apple's position - that being the reason they commissioned her).

She might be nothing more than a mouth piece for Apple, but she is an eminently qualified one and the paper would be hard pressed to ignore her argument in good conscience.

Edited 2017-02-02 19:23 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 2