An email exchange uncovered in a court filing has revealed plans to coordinate a negative smear campaign against Google using major media outlets.
As outlined by an exhibit within the main filing, the MPAA, Comcast, and Newscorp would potentially collude by opening up access to national media channels and advance the MPAA’s business interests as related to piracy. The emails were exchanged between the MPAA’s former director of external state government relations, Brian Cohen, and two lawyers within the office of Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood.
Specifically, an unspecified PR firm would handle all the logistical details under the guise of being funded by a nonprofit that was created to advance stances on intellectual property issues. Of course, this attack campaign wouldn’t be limited to Google, but was specifically designed to target the largest search engine on the Web.
Regarding the potential involvement of the Today Show, the email reads “live buys should be available for the media to see, followed by a segment the next day on the Today Show (David Green can help with this). After the Today Show segment, you want to have a large investor of Google (George can help us determine that) come forward and say that Google needs to change its behavior/demand reform.”
The live buys mentioned in the email were designed to smear Google by depicting three possible scenarios. These “live and taped segments” are described as watching someone purchase prescription painkillers or illegal drugs, watching a minor download or stream an R-rated movie off the Internet and watching someone accept delivery of an assault weapon at home. Presumably, all three scenarios would allude to these actions being accomplished by using a search engine, such as Google, to find drugs, pirated movies or firearms. These ads sounds somewhat familiar to the MPAA’s frequently-mocked “Piracy, It’s a Crime” campaign.
Outlining the Wall Street Journal’s potential participation in the attack campaign, the email continues “Next, you want NewsCorp to develop and place an editorial in the WSJ emphasizing that Google’s stock will lose value in the face of a sustained attack by AGs and noting some of the possible causes of action we have developed.” The emails did not indicate who at the Wall Street Journal would be approached to create the editorial under the influence of the MPAA.
Conceptually, this attack campaign would have been an attempt to destabilize Google’s stock price and confidence in the Web company. For instance, the email continues “Following the media blitz, you want Bill Guidera and Rick Smotkin to work with the PR firm to identify a lawyer specializing in SEC matters to work with a stockholder. This lawyer should be able to the [sic] identify the appropriate regulatory filing to be made against Google.” According to LinkedIn, Bill Quidera currently holds the position of Senior Vice President at 21st Century Fox and Rick Smotkin currently holds the position of Senior Vice President of Government Affairs at Comcast.
Further punishment planned for Google included encouraging attorney generals in states around the country to file CIDs (civil investigative demands) against Google, basically a more powerful version of a subpoena. While a standard subpoena simply requests access to documents, a CID can also demand answers to questions via written reply or testimony from a Google representative provided under oath.