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Tech policy influence wielded on Twitter, Facebook in new and blurred arena



From the paper on Saturday:

By Cecilia Kang

Why pay for a golf trip, dinner or full-page ad when you can tweet for free?

The influence peddlers of K Street have discovered the power of social networking on such Web sites as Twitter and Facebook. Using their own names without mentioning that they work in public relations or as lobbyists, employees of companies with interests in Washington are chattering online to shape opinions in hard-to-detect ways.

Take PJ Rodriguez, whose Twitter profile says he's a pop culture maven and cable blogger. He tweets about "American Idol," Dora the Explorer and wonky tech policy issues, like broadband jurisdiction at the Federal Communications Commission.

"Former FCC Chairman Powell: cable has never been regulated in a Title II common carrier fashion," he wrote recently, one of several 140-characters-or-fewer missives he fires off daily on the site.

What's not as clear is that he is a public relations staffer being supported by such companies as Comcast, Cox and Time Warner Cable as the Web 2.0 point person for the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, an industry trade group. Nowhere on his profile does he mention NCTA or provide a link to its site.

Tweets, blogs and comments on news sites can draw big audiences and popular support for a variety of causes, from tech policy to health care and energy regulation. But they provide a shade of gray in the lobbying world, where enormous influence is being exercised with few rules of engagement about spending and disclosure.

"It's a bit of a Wild West, because anyone can be anyone on the Web and it's harder to tell where the line between work and the person's non-work life is," said John Wonderlich, policy director at the Sunlight Foundation. "The whole enterprise of lobbying disclosure is hard to apply hard-and-fast standards to and hard to regulate. Add to that the way we interact socially through technology, which is changing the lines around our traditional roles."

Read here for full story.

By Cecilia Kang  |  April 26, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  AT&T , Broadband , Comcast , FCC , FTC , Facebook , Google , Net Neutrality , Sprint Nextel , Verizon  
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