'Tim Cook for President' and other tawdry campaigns from Qualcomm's PR bulldog

Posted:
in General Discussion edited November 2018
Definers Public Affairs, the PR firm Facebook contracted to sling mud at critics after the Cambridge Analytica debacle, also conducted campaigns against Apple at the command of Qualcomm, according to a report Wednesday.

Draft Tim Cook
Screenshot of "Draft Tim Cook 2020," a website supposedly created by Definers Public Affairs.


In a wide-ranging report detailing Definers' successful attempt to employ Washington, D.C., political strategy to Silicon Valley public relations, The New York Times uncovered links to targeted attack campaigns aimed at Apple and its leadership.

Qualcomm hired the agency as it tussled with Apple in court over patent licensing and royalties, sources told the Times. The chipmaker has been angling for a settlement as the protracted action costs the firm billions in royalty payments, but Apple appears to be content to move forward with court proceedings that span the globe.

Against that highly contentious backdrop, Definers conducted opposition research against Apple, plying its trade to a number of projects designed to mold perception of the Cupertino tech giant.

Definers used conservative leaning news aggregator NTK Network to disseminate stories critical of Apple and its CEO Tim Cook. The network has posted at least 57 articles pertaining to the company this year, the report said, some of which directly address the dispute with Qualcomm.

Like other Definers campaigns, the issue at hand was not always central to a campaign's narrative. In one example, an article published by NTK in 2017 explained the iPhone 8 "might be slower than the competition" because it uses baseband chips made by Intel, not Qualcomm. Another story pointed said, "For Apple, the choice will be clear: make nice with Qualcomm, or offer a slower, inferior product to consumers."

NTK editor in chief Joe Pounder, who is also listed as a co-founder of Definers and its sister company America Rising, in a statement said the publication is independent.

"What NTK writes and posts on is what NTK chooses to write and post on," Pounder said.

Tim Miller, head of Definers' Silicon Valley operation, painted a slightly different picture in a proposal sent to a client last year, according to the report.

"Definers manages NTK Network, a news aggregation platform that targets Washington D.C. influencers. Through NTK we can directly re-publish favorable news from other outlets, and work with like-minded individuals to help create an echo chamber effect," Miller wrote.

Citing emails, the report claims Definers hawked "anti-Apple research" to various media outlets without divulging a funding source. One memo, titled "Apple Bowing to Chinese Cyber Regulators," took Apple to task over a seemingly contradictory stance on privacy in China. The report says "dozens" of articles were "planted" on conservative news sites.

Miller contacted AppleInsider in June 2017 with a pitch suggesting coordination between between the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, Apple, Intel and Samsung before Apple filed its suit against Qualcomm earlier that year. Miller did not state who Definers was working for in the email correspondence.

Beyond NTK and media pitches, Miller himself penned an article accusing Cook of lying to President Donald Trump about building manufacturing plants in the U.S., according to an email reviewed by the Times. The piece, which included claims that Cook leaked a "fabricated story" on Trump immigration reform to the Times, was peddled to right-wing website GotNews, which published it without attribution.

Trump has in the past criticized Apple for running production of its popular consumer products through offshore partners like Foxconn, but last year announced the company planned to build three "big, big, big" manufacturing facilities in the U.S. Apple declined to comment on the matter at the time and has yet to establish a major first-party plant in its home country.

In perhaps its most outlandish -- and ingenious -- play, Definers created a campaign promoting Cook as a potential presidential candidate, a move thought to disrupt thawing relations with Trump. Researcher Kyle Ehmke of cybersecurity company ThreatConnect found the "Draft Tim Cook 2020" website includes "digital links" to Definers employees, the report said.

For its part, Definers says the tactics used by Miller and other employees are par for the course. Chief executive and co-founder Matt Rhoades in a statement said its work "is absolutely no different than what public affairs firms do every day for their clients across industries and issues across the country. We are proud of the work we do for our clients."
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 23
    This is beyond low.

    Apple, for years, try to avoid any political positions. In recent years, Apple position itself as pro human right in US. And try to avoid any other things as general principles. Not to mention, Tim is a very smart guy. He just will not get into the muddy water no matter what.  

    Yes, you can criticize Apple in China or Russian, bit all Apple can do is follow the law disregard who made it. Who ever suggested Apple can do more is just dumb. It is a public company that aim for maximum profit for the shareholders and that is not wrong as long as it is legitimate. Overthrow a government is the business of CIA.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 23
    Really?  Numerous non-conservative news or non-political tech sources reported that Apple was using 'slower' or 'inferior' Intel modems due to their dispute with Qualcomm.  Apple 'bowing' to China's censorship policies was covered in a wide range of media including the New York Times and The Guardian.  The Slate reported that "Apple and Amazon are helping China censor the Internet"; don't recall them being a bastion of right-wing thought.   As for the draft Tim Cook 2020 propaganda, it's easy to see why people might swallow it because unlike Steve Jobs, Cook is not shy to push his social-political beliefs under the company banner.   Don't doubt that Qualcomm might try to fan anti-Apple flames but fair or not, there's plenty of criticism of Apple, political or not.    
    cgWerkscornchip
  • Reply 3 of 23
    This was a real eye-opener. Wow. I'm speechless.
    magman1979repressthiswatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 23
    I think finally I know about people worse than patent trolls and analysts. 
    magman1979repressthiswatto_cobrah2p
  • Reply 5 of 23
    How low can you go? Are there NO values left in this world. Integrity? Pride? Honesty?
    magman1979repressthiswatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 23
    YvLy said:
    How low can you go? Are there NO values left in this world. Integrity? Pride? Honesty?
    Seriously? Have you not watched the news in, um...

    Well, I was going to say the last three years, but really, your bar is too low.  A quarter of the country still thinks there were WMDs in Iraq. That's just stupid, not a moral failing, but the ones who convinced them of that... that's another story.
    magman1979cgWerkscornchipwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 23
    Who needs Russian trolls when we have Definers?
    magman1979watto_cobrabadmonk
  • Reply 8 of 23
    dewmedewme Posts: 2,198member
    YvLy said:
    How low can you go? Are there NO values left in this world. Integrity? Pride? Honesty?
    There is no bottom when it comes to the preservation of power or money. None. Nil. Zero. It doesn't matter one bit whether you're talking tech gadgets, Barbie dolls, crude oil filled tankers, or cluster bombs. If you start messing with people's power or money, deservedly or not, real or imagined, someone is going to get hurt. Maybe one, maybe 60 million. You do read history books and see the daily news? Integrity? Pride? Honesty? - these "values" are completely fungible and subject to interpretation. To some people a bone saw is just a tool, but to others it is a personal grooming device, i.e., something used to maintain proper political and economic hygiene.  
    magman1979cornchipwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 23
    From AppleInsider’s archives regarding Facebook, China and Apple...


    https://iphone.appleinsider.com/articles/18/10/30/zuckerberg-says-imessage-biggest-competitor-to-facebooks-messaging-services-takes-dig-at-apples-china-policies


    https://iphone.appleinsider.com/articles/18/10/24/former-facebook-security-chief-questions-apples-privacy-double-standard-in-china


    It seems Qualcomm and Facebook used the old playbook, the enemy of my enemy is my friend when both companies had The Definers work for them.

    Let’s not forget how Mark Zuckerberg “left his notes open” when he walk away from the table during a Senate hearing and an eagle-eyed photographer was able to take advantage of the opportunity to snap a picture of the notes ...

    https://iphone.appleinsider.com/articles/18/04/10/mark-zuckerberg-was-ready-to-pounce-on-apples-data-practices-at-senate-hearing





    markbyrnwatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 23
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,788member
    Well, I thought I’d seen and heard it all. 

    Why isn’t this shite illegal?
    magman1979watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 23
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,788member

    markbyrn said:
    Really?  Numerous non-conservative news or non-political tech sources reported that Apple was using 'slower' or 'inferior' Intel modems due to their dispute with Qualcomm.  Apple 'bowing' to China's censorship policies was covered in a wide range of media including the New York Times and The Guardian.  The Slate reported that "Apple and Amazon are helping China censor the Internet"; don't recall them being a bastion of right-wing thought.   As for the draft Tim Cook 2020 propaganda, it's easy to see why people might swallow it because unlike Steve Jobs, Cook is not shy to push his social-political beliefs under the company banner.   Don't doubt that Qualcomm might try to fan anti-Apple flames but fair or not, there's plenty of criticism of Apple, political or not.    


    magman1979watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 23
    This is just so pathetic that this is sad. Don’t know what else to say, but humanity at it’s lowest in the 21st Century. Thought that we would better ourselves not become worst. 
    edited November 2018 magman1979StrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 23
    YvLy said:
    How low can you go? Are there NO values left in this world. Integrity? Pride? Honesty?
    I’ve never heard any of these terms. Had to use a dictionary to look them up. Every one of them says “obsolete.”
    magman1979muthuk_vanalingamberndogwatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 23
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 7,469member
    Rayz2016 said:
    Well, I thought I’d seen and heard it all. 

    Why isn’t this shite illegal?
    Welcome to the world of fake news. The MacBreak Weekly show this past Tuesday spent a lot of time discussing the rumors flying around Apple about production cuts. Andy Ihnatko made the point about Apple centric blogs always being on the lookout for stories and dutifully republishing anything and everything they find to generate page views (income). It would appear that a lot of these stories (like the one about restarting iPhone X production) are plants. They get gobbled up and spread like peanut butter all over the tech blogs. And yes, a significant segment of the population actually believes that if you read it on the Internet it must be true. It’s not the Qualcomms of the world, it’s the gullibility of human beings.

    As for the legality of this, well, brazen stock manipulation is legal so why not fake news.
    edited November 2018 magman1979watto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 23
    brucemcbrucemc Posts: 1,540member
    YvLy said:
    How low can you go? Are there NO values left in this world. Integrity? Pride? Honesty?
    I am afraid very little.  Just look at a lot of posts on this forum.
    magman1979watto_cobrabadmonk
  • Reply 16 of 23
    Et tu, Qualcomm?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 23
    anomeanome Posts: 1,304member
    From AppleInsider’s archives regarding Facebook, China and Apple...


    https://iphone.appleinsider.com/articles/18/10/30/zuckerberg-says-imessage-biggest-competitor-to-facebooks-messaging-services-takes-dig-at-apples-china-policies


    https://iphone.appleinsider.com/articles/18/10/24/former-facebook-security-chief-questions-apples-privacy-double-standard-in-china


    It seems Qualcomm and Facebook used the old playbook, the enemy of my enemy is my friend when both companies had The Definers work for them.

    Let’s not forget how Mark Zuckerberg “left his notes open” when he walk away from the table during a Senate hearing and an eagle-eyed photographer was able to take advantage of the opportunity to snap a picture of the notes ...

    https://iphone.appleinsider.com/articles/18/04/10/mark-zuckerberg-was-ready-to-pounce-on-apples-data-practices-at-senate-hearing





    That stunt (leaving his notes where they could be read by the press) may actually have done him more harm than good. Regardless whether Apple's privacy policies and use of customer data were equivalent (and most people seem to think they aren't), having the "Well they do it too!" ready to go doesn't reflect well on their strategy. He might get some points for not going there, but the suggestion he might have if things had gone differently doesn't look good. Especially as it was mostly spun as "he just didn't get round to it" rather than "he chose not to go there".
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 23
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 2,314member
    viclauyyc said:
    This is beyond low.

    Apple, for years, try to avoid any political positions. In recent years, Apple position itself as pro "human right" in US.
    Fixed that for you, heh. It might be low, but it's standard practice all over the place anymore.

    YvLy said:
    How low can you go? Are there NO values left in this world. Integrity? Pride? Honesty?
    Pretty much. Things of the past.

    YvLy said:
    How low can you go? Are there NO values left in this world. Integrity? Pride? Honesty?
    Seriously? Have you not watched the news in, um...
    No doubt. The US government has a well-funded agency that inserts narratives into movies, TV shows, news, etc. Why shouldn't Facebook or Qualcomm play the game too?

    Who needs Russian trolls when we have Definers?
    They probably ARE the Russian trolls. Either that, or was just port scanning.

    This is just so pathetic that this is sad. Don’t know what else to say, but humanity at it’s lowest in the 21st Century. Thought that we would better ourselves not become worst. 
    You ain't seen nothing yet.
  • Reply 19 of 23
    Rayz2016 said:

    markbyrn said:
    Really?  Numerous non-conservative news or non-political tech sources reported that Apple was using 'slower' or 'inferior' Intel modems due to their dispute with Qualcomm.  Apple 'bowing' to China's censorship policies was covered in a wide range of media including the New York Times and The Guardian.  The Slate reported that "Apple and Amazon are helping China censor the Internet"; don't recall them being a bastion of right-wing thought.   As for the draft Tim Cook 2020 propaganda, it's easy to see why people might swallow it because unlike Steve Jobs, Cook is not shy to push his social-political beliefs under the company banner.   Don't doubt that Qualcomm might try to fan anti-Apple flames but fair or not, there's plenty of criticism of Apple, political or not.    


    Everything he said is true.
  • Reply 20 of 23
    YvLy said:
    How low can you go? Are there NO values left in this world. Integrity? Pride? Honesty?
    Seriously? Have you not watched the news in, um...

    Well, I was going to say the last three years, but really, your bar is too low.  A quarter of the country still thinks there were WMDs in Iraq. That's just stupid, not a moral failing, but the ones who convinced them of that... that's another story.

    That's the media's fault.  Just like now, when people assume that the caravan is 50% women and children, when statistically, *factually* it's actually approximately 10% women and children.
    watto_cobra
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