The Jury Talks Back

11/11/2010

PG&E executive resigns over sockpuppet scandal

Filed under: California Politics — aunursa @ 8:04 am

Another sockpuppet scandal — this one via PG&E executive William Devereaux.  Mr. Devereaux, Senior Director of the PG&E SmartMeter program, used a fake name while attempting to infiltrate an online group that discusses adverse effects of the SmartMeters.  Although Devereaux signed his message to the site moderator as “Ralph”, his email server displayed his real name.  The moderator wrote back, “Hi, aren’t you the head of the Smart Meter program at PG&E?  We’d love your help!  Can you help us obtain a Smart Meter moratorium ASAP?”

In September, someone using the same email address submitted a comment to the discussion group SmartWarriorMarin:

The hypocrisy of your own arguments as you pick and choose yourself about the science regarding rf [radio frequency emissions], make unsubstantiated claims about smart meter energy use, and make completely irresponsible allegations trying to link smart meters to the tragedy of San Bruno.”

Devereaux admitted that he had monitored other online PG&E critics for months.  A PG&E spokesman reported that Devereaux resigned his position yesterday.

3 Comments »

  1. I’m of mixed minds about this.

    I think that for an executive of PG&E to go read the forums where people are complaining about PG&E is probably a good thing – it increases awareness at the company’s executive level of what customers think and feel, and even if indirectly ought to increase the level of customer service provided by the company. The talk of ‘infiltration’ and ‘snooping’ misses the mark, IMO: I want company men listening in on customer complaints.

    The problem I have is the falsification of credentials. Presenting yourself as someone you aren’t is a problem, especially if it leads other people to relying on that misrepresentation.

    And yet: in some corners of the net, anonymity is normal – and it’s essential for some of those corners of the net to function. So a general rule barring anonymity or psuedonyms is, I think, not helpful.

    Except in this situation it feels wrong – maybe because he was a man in a position to do something about the problem, and so that created a responsibility to engage with the critics on the level, rather than via subterfuge.

    But I really don’t know what the general-case rule is, to be derived from this.

    Comment by aphrael — 11/11/2010 @ 12:56 pm

  2. There is a difference between a psedonym and a sockpuppet. Patterico explained in his post exposing Michael Hiltzik:
    http://patterico.com/2006/04/20/three-in-one-michael-hiltzik-mikekoshi-and-nofanofcablecos/

    I am actually a strong defender of people’s right to comment anonymously, or pseudonymously. I myself was semi-pseudonymous for the first several months of this blog. But I don’t think that commenters should use pseudonyms to pretend to be something or somebody they aren’t.

    I don’t go around pretending to be someone else. I am accountable for what I say. If I were anonymous commenter “Patterico,” defending the arguments and actions of well-known blogger “Patrick Frey,” I wouldn’t be surprised if people found that fact worth sharing. And as far as I know, my blog commenters are not going around pretending to be people they’re not, commenting on themselves using pseudonyms.

    I would agree with you about an executive wanting to increase awareness of how customers feel, depending upon the intent. In this case, I suspect that his intent was to gain access to SmartMeter opponents’ arguments so that he could develop refutations and/or simply to argue his position while appearing as a disinterested observer.

    Comment by aunursa — 11/11/2010 @ 1:16 pm

  3. In other words, I don’t think he was simply interested in a benevolent manner of listening to customer complaints in order to improve the product.

    Comment by aunursa — 11/11/2010 @ 1:17 pm

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