Was Deleting All Daniel Brusilovsky’s Posts an FTC Blogger Guideline Violation? [#bruhaha]

[Update: Mike Arrington contacted John this afternoon and clarified that “the posts were turned off, not deleted.” This really doesn’t change my analysis in the post, since the damage has been done, and attempting to remove the posts from public view rather than disclose is still contrary to the spirit and letter of the FTC guidelines. –mrh]

image At this point, there’s no question that Daniel Brusilovsky is obviously the “intern” that Michael Arrington is referring to in his post over at Techcrunch last night (despite the “attempt” to obfuscate his identity). This all came in on the eve of the Teens in Tech conference this morning at 9:00 AM.

What’s most interesting, particularly as someone like me who’s followed very closely the FTC guidelines for blogger disclosure is how Michael Arrington, not Daniel Brusilovsky, is running afoul of what I believe to be the proper ethics that the FTC is trying to force on the blogging public.  While it may make sense from the perspective of a business person protecting his many interests, taking down the blog posts that Daniel put out over the course of his nine months at the company is exactly the opposite of the transparency that the FTC wants to enact.

The Breadcrumb Trail Leads Back to Arrington’s Culpability

September 17th of 2008, Ken Kaplan announced on the Intel Insider’s blog that the new crew of “Intel Insiders” had been announced. Intel Insiders is, according to Ken Kaplan, their “social media advisory program.” During the 2008-2009 run, the program included Erin Kane, Corvida Raven, Frank Gruber, JD Lasica and iJustine, Steve “Chippy” Paine, Brian Solis, Tom Foremski, Pete Cashmore, Cathy Brooks, as well as Daniel Brusilovsky. The announcement, as of the time of this writing, was still viewable on both Ken Kaplan’s entry at Intel’s Scoop blog as well as Daniel’s personal blog.

On January 8th of 2010, Daniel Brusilovsky posted at Techcrunch and Crunchgear about a new App Store, “this time, from Intel.” The full text of the post is below, pulled from my Google Reader cache, as well as screenshot next to the quote:


Intel CEO Paul Otellini at CES announced an app store for applications on netbooks. The store is called AppUp Center, and it’s a place where users can purchase programs that cater to a netbooks’ unique screen size and mobility. Intel AppUp center launched today for Windows and will support Moblin-based open source operating systems and a number of runtime environments later this year.

The first set of apps are now available for download, for free or to purchase, and more will be added as they are validated. App categories include entertainment, business, games, education, health and social media. Additionally, Acer, ASUS, Dell and Samsung have announced plans to collaborate with Intel on their own app stores.

According to Intel, by participating in the program, developers gain access to the fast-growing, consumer-centric computing netbook category. In addition, developers gain revenue opportunities from the netbook-installed base, and potentially hundreds of millions of other Intel processor-based computers and devices — should Intel and partner storefronts expand into new market segments.

Intel is also working with partners to bring the app stores to consumers. The partner stores give access to the developer and store services the Intel AppUp center offers. The services include validating and categorizing apps and utilizing a common transaction infrastructure to administer purchases and downloads for these tailored stores.

(original link: http://www.crunchgear.com/2010/01/08/yet-another-app-store-this-time-its-intel/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+Techcrunch+(TechCrunch)&utm_content=Google+Reader)

This information, Daniel’s involvement in the program, was quite common knowledge, as was Intel’s sponsorship of the Teens in Tech conference, displayed prominently on the front page of the conference site.

According to Intel, loaner review units would regularly be given out to the group, as well as non-disclosed information ahead of the public’s general knowledge. They would adhere to WOMMA standards (generally, FTC supportive and compliant), which states that any gifts or loans of equipment as well as any special relationship status must be disclosed in all posts by those belonging to Intel Insiders.

image I did extensive searches through the Techcrunch network archives I store in Google Reader, and the only major conflict of interest I noted was the single Intel post.  Regardless of how many incidences of malfeasance exist, the culpability lies with Techcrunch, not Daniel, since it appeared on their blog and not his.

Techcrunch’s Culpability is the Only Clear Thing in this Story

There is a great deal of conflicting and intentionally confusing information coming at us from all sides, and without a clear paper trail (which we hear there is none, just like in the Crunchpad-JooJoo debacle), it’s difficult to determine who did exactly what. We know what Michael Arrington alleges in his post, which was flatly denied to us by multiple parties, including Daniel himself.

Daniel later last evening issued a public apology, which if you’ll carefully parse the words, admits no culpability.  I desperately want to believe Daniel’s side of things, because a very clear narrative what probably transpired is obvious to me, but Mike Arrington is more concerned with tanking a young man’s career as quickly as possible than adhering to the law, and for whatever reason Daniel would rather move on with his life outside of tech and not stand up and defend himself. Either way, the culpability lays with Mike Arrington and Techcrunch, not Daniel Brusilovsky.

The proper course of action, according to FTC regulations, would be to go back to the effective date of the new FTC blogger guidelines, and re-insert disclosure statements on all of Daniel’s posts, and then hope and pray that the FTC finds that enough (because after all, once the post is initially published, the real damage, if any, is done).

What he’s done is akin to the executives of Enron bringing in the paper shredders days ahead of a federal investigation.  The difference, of course, is that Michael’s actions can be easily remedied (especially now that WordPress offers “undelete” functionality). My guess is that the malfeasance is a lot less severe than what’s been indicated by Mike in his apology, or it’s a lot worse.  The only reason you’d go through and erase all record of his work there (when it’s under suspicion of being put there in violation of federal guidelines) is that every post was pay for play, or a lot less than what was indicated was pay for play and it’s all a link baiting ploy.

What’s Really Going On Here, Aside from a Lynch Mob?

image I won’t venture to guess the true motivations behind Mike’s actions, and despite all the shakeout, I still think there’s a lot more than we’re being told. We attempted to shake out the story as much as possible via Twitter and private conversations all last night, and received a great deal of flack for it.  Whether it was deserved is up to you to decide, but staying up late and getting all sides of the story gave us a much fuller perspective than the rest of the public seems to have, which is why we’re sharing it here with our analysis.

Very quickly, the moves by big names in the blogosphere were to immediately lynch Daniel for what Mike said he did, far before all the facts were in or Daniel had even stated his case. I talked about this very same lynch mob mentality when I analyzed the Kathy Sierra blogosphere debacle of 2007 (which, ironically, involved a great deal of redacted blog posts, hateful invective and jumping to conclusions). Most notably, Loic Lemeur, a fellow I generally admire, incidentally, came out almost immediately with a thoughtful plea to Daniel to apologize, all of it predicated on the total veracity of what Mike alleged. Similarly, last night, Ryan Block called out John Furrier with invective for his efforts to investigate all sides of the story.

But as in the Kathy Sierra situation, it looks like, at least from initial impressions we’ve gotten privately as well as from Daniel’s blog post, that he’s going to be backing away from his involvement in the tech world completely, and some have said that this is the end of any career he could have had in this sector (Loren Feldman said he might as well go pick up a job at the GAP). It’s sad to see that happen, and it’s unnecessary. This whole thing could have been handled privately and legally. Mike Arrington knows how to spin a story, and if he wanted to save face for Daniel, rather than force him to fall on a sword, he could have done so.

What the blogosphere needs now, for the sake of old guys like us as well as the new kids like Daniel: true mentorship. We bloggers like to hate on Old Media, but I’m not sure if any of you have looked around lately – we’re not all getting any younger. Fresh blood has to exist in this industry, and creating a closed off club where youngsters and newcomers are by default excluded is, in general, a bad idea.

Keep an eye on these pages, as we’ll be revealing more details soon about the nature of our mentorship program. It’s something we believe in the importance of, is in the spirit of which SiliconANGLE was founded, and something we’ll be following through on.