Astroturfing in Gasland- Are Dart Energys’ employees blogging in work time?

TEXACO OIL WASTE PIT IN THE AMAZONWho’s got the astroturf?

As a former Balcombe village gardener I was alarmed to hear about Cuadrilla Resources plans for the village and began to research their operations and more accurately gauge public opinion on plans to drill in a designated A.O.N.B.

What I immediately discovered worried me even more. The online comments boards on articles in the mainstream press related to unconventional gas exploration at Balcombe were being aggressively patrolled by a handful of ‘experts’ – all with a very pro fracking message. Analysis of their blogging history showed that, unlike other posters, blogging was a full time activity – rarely posting on unrelated subjects and using highly specialized industry knowledge to question and often ridicule the concerns of ordinary laypeople.

The most vociferous blogger ‘Foilist’ had written over 60,000 pro fracking words since January on the Guardians CiF alone- about the length of your average best seller!

When I quizzed him on this unbridled enthusiasm for onshore unconventional gas and his prolific pro fracking writtings he told me he worked offshore for a company few had heard of and posted while bored on, or on leave from, a North Sea Oil Rig.

Only after further investigation it turned out Foilist holds a senior position at DART ENERGY, Scotland’s largest and best known unconventional onshore gas prospector: Foilist, from a post 2 years ago when demanding an apology from Guardian reporter Adam Vaughan September2011 5:14pm:

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2011/sep/21/polish-shale-gas-coal#comment-12503293 21

@adamVaghaun………
You do that, and then he (and you) can apologise on this blog to me and to ozjock for prinitng lies… …….facts are sacred eh?
Yours,
Nick Thwaites,
Senior Drilling Engineer, Dart Energy

Facts are indeed sacred – so just where exactly are Dart Energy’s North Sea Rigs?
Answers on a postcard to the Unconventional Gas Astroturf Group ( UGAG ), Gasland.

Here are the relevant highlights- or more accurately lowlights – from our rather bad tempered public correspondence on the Guardians Cif:

Spizaetus: commented on Fracking protest: who’s who in the battle of Balcombe? 01 Aug 2013

Do you work for Cuadrilla?

Foilist: commented on Fracking protest: who’s who in the battle of Balcombe? 01 Aug 2013

No.I don’t work for Cuadrilla. I won’t say who I do work for because:
1. I’m posting here on my own account, as an individual. If I mention my current employer I’ll become quoted as a “spokesperson for …”

….thank heavens our name isn’t a household one like Cuadrilla’s and so dog whistle politics won’t work on our operations.

Spizaetus: commented on Fracking protest: who’s who in the battle of Balcombe?.01 Aug 2013

…you still haven’t answered as to how you and your colleagues are able to blog about Gas and Oil all day long?


Foilist
: on Fracking protest: who’s who in the battle of Balcombe?.01 Aug 2013

I’m on my time off…. 2 weeks on and 2 weeks off, see? ……..
……..to be honest, right now I’m a bit bored on my time off, and I enjoy the debate…

Spizaetus commented on Fracking protest: who’s who in the battle of Balcombe?.01 Aug 2013

you do this in your time off…?Because you believe in oil and gas so much?
No other vested interest? Pull the other one.

Foilist commented on Frack Off protesters bring a little fire engine trouble to Balcombe oil site.02 Aug 2013

……..I post on my time off, and also if I have time during my work as a Night Company Man/ Company Man at the wellsite (and lets face it, if you are on tour but Waiting on Weather what else is there to do on a tiny little metal island bobbing around the North Sea?)
What are you trying to insinuate? Because you can’t argue against the facts of what I am saying you are attacking my character??

Spizaetus: commented on Frack Off protesters bring a little fire engine trouble to Balcombe oil site.02 Aug 2013

I post in my time off and also if i have time during my work as a Night Company/Comapany Man at the well site
So you DO get paid to blog about oil and gas

Foilist: commented on Frack Off protesters bring a little fire engine trouble to Balcombe oil site.03 Aug 2013

……I am occasionally being paid by an oil company while I write here- not actually paid to write here, you’ll leave that out, but it doesn’t matter as the implied slander is there! In fact I’m being paid while I’m writing here in the same way as almost everyone else on CIF who posts during office hours is paid by someone while they post (but not for posting)…but the implied libel is there- my posts are somehow less valid or dishonest because it is your unfounded belief I am being directly paid to write them.
What an unpleasant person you seem to be – can’t really answer my points or debate with me, but instead to try and malign my character and motivations for posting here.
tell me, spizaetus (and please answer yes or no):
do you still hit your partner?


Spizaetus:
commented on Bianca Jagger: Stop this fracking nightmare in Balcombe.06 Aug 2013

As you know through our previous discussions on the Balcombe related Cif’s, one of the many concerns I have about the debate surrounding oil and gas prospecting in the Weald is the level of astroturfing apparent on these forums – “ the practise of masking a sponsor message” and “ giving statements the credibility of an independent entity by withholding information about the sources financial connection” (wiki).
You have, I admit, been completely open about the fact that you are a senior drill engineer in the North Sea off shore industry and know a ‘teeny weeny bit more ‘ about fracking than us, the lay people.
So policy makers should, in your view, listen to the objective experts like yourself- and the industry can regulate itself.
Transparently you see no conflict of interest in blogging about oil and gas while being employed by an oil company on an off shore rig?
Only there is one problem:
having taken the time to read some of your public posts I notice you work for DART ENERGY, who have even BIGGER interests in ON SHORE fracking than Cuadrilla ……

Having not answered my main concern about your level of online activity ( a novels worth in 7 months ) you left no option but to find out for my self.
What I haven’t been able to discover, and maybe you can help, is where DART ENERGY’s off shore North Sea oil rigs (from where you sometimes post) actually are?
Just to remind you of your post:

I post on my time off, and also if I have time during my work as a Night Company Man/ Company Man at the wellsite (and lets face it, if you are on tour but Waiting on Weather what else is there to do on a tiny little metal island bobbing around the North Sea?)


Foilist
subsequent profile post- since removed: August

“The name of my employer has been published on CiF. To remove any worry that my posts are authored, sanctioned or endorsed by them, I will not post on Cif again. Thanks to everyone who’s posts i enjoyed reading (Jbowers, steb, geologybob, yetypu) & GOODBYE

Foilist has not posted since the date of my last post to him- the longest gap in a prolific blogging history. Can’t say I’m disappointed.

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4 responses to “Astroturfing in Gasland- Are Dart Energys’ employees blogging in work time?

  1. I had some arguments with foilist myself. Pretty hilarious that he disappears as soon as the fact that he works for a fracking company is brought up. Probably just creating another anonymous alias to keep doing the same.

    • Spot on, unfortunately one can only speculate as to who. With that in mind I noticed the arrival of a new twitter fracking troll @auntie_fracker. Interestingly, the 18 followers auntie fracker has accrued in her first weeks on twitter include 2 MPs’ – one a member of the Energy and Climate Change select committee and Chair of the APPG for Unconventional Gas & of the All Party Environment Group, the other MP for Blackpool North. Auntie Fracker’s 18 followers also include an internet social media marketing consultancy firm – Orbit Internet http://www.orbit-internet.com/ – presumably following its own creation. Hmmm……might get back to you on this one

  2. Congratulations on your tenacity in uncovering the identities and ulterior motives of gremlins on newspaper comment sites whose sole purpose is to promote fracking for profit.

    My friends and I have been aware of these people for a couple of years now, and it isn’t just fracking that causes companies to pay place men who continually support, in online comments sections, an obviously contentious policy or activity, sometimes forcing an opinion that supports their views and alienating those who don’t, yielding a skewed response in reply to news items.

    I would suggest that government departments also indulge in this practise, particularly where ”leaks” from ministers, or new gov policy items are reported upon in online media, though unlike your good self I have limited capacity to dig behind the scenes.—–though michaelnewcome above, substantiates my understanding…thanks.

    I shall continue, along with other friends, to comment to online news, especially fracking items, and can tell you we love it when these overpaid gremlins arrive and write spurious nonsense, as often it means we can reply with very damaging facts, with evidence that shows how ridiculous these folk are. The best response is always to point out the Halliburton loophole……..as few of them understand what type of industry they are supporting……………………………………..

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