V-Fluence is a public relations, government affairs and issues management strategic consulting group that holds a contract with the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), having "provided online analysis, Internet monitoring, website evaluations (including Section 508 compliance), social media outreach support and NGO training to the Department of Energy’s national laboratories, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office and the U.S. Department of State" since 2001, according to the firm's website. V-Fluence uses "proprietary online data-mining and analytics" to "define and positively shape [clients'] online environment." V-Fluence was one of 'O'Dwyer's PR's "Top 100 PR Firms" in 2007 and in their top 88 healthcare and medical PR firms in 2008. Its clients "include the world's largest corporations and best-known brands, major trade and professional associations, respected non-profit groups, government agencies and leading academic institutions," according to its website.
Accusing Blogger of "Hacking" a Publicly Viewable Website
In April 2010, a blogger gained access to a V-Fluence site intended to remain internal, revealing that V-Fluence was monitoring healthcare-related blogs for its client, AstraZeneca. At the time, AstraZeneca's antipsychotic drug Seroquel® was allegedly the subject of "crisis consulting" as it was "facing thousands of lawsuits claiming the company failed to warn patients that a side effect of the drug is weight gain." V-Fluence published a press release accusing a blogger of "hacking" "a v-Fluence Interactive server Web portal used by our Internet content screeners and analysts to code monitoring data" who then allegedly "collected a screen shot of this content for purposes of publicly distributing the data in an attempt to cause reputational damage to our company and clients by name."
The blogger in question, Dennis Rosen, or "Stan" of "Is Something Not Quite Right With Stan - A Mental Health Blog," responded, "[L]et's set the record straight. 'I did not hack into v-fluence.' These accusations published on their web site are complete fabrication by the spin doctors themselves. They left their site door wide open to public viewing, and I simply peered in and have brought their seedy practices to everyone's attention on this blog. . . . I certainly would like 'full disclosure' on how much and what kinds of information has been gathered by your company and how is it being used by your clients." He quotes V-Fluence president Jay Byrne, who "has held senior communications positions at the White House, U.S. State Department, Monsanto Company and for the City of Boston," as saying, "Think of the Internet as a weapon on the table. Either you pick it up or your competitor does - but somebody is going to get killed" (emphasis original).
An article in B-Net Pharma called it a "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!" moment for AstraZeneca, and claimed, "Everyone knows pharmaceutical companies monitor bloggers who cover the drug business. But they don’t usually let bloggers see the results of their surveillance, which is what makes this incident so fascinating."
Related SourceWatch Articles
- V-Fluence, Internet Advertising and Integrated Marketing Solutions (AIMS), firm website, accessed January 20, 2012
- V-Fluence, V-Fluence, firm website, accessed January 20, 2012
- Profiles of Top Independent PR Firms, O'Dwyer's PR, May 2007
- Profiles of Healthcare & Medical Firms, O'Dwyer's PR, October 2008
- V-Fluence, About, firm website, accessed January 20, 2012
- Jim Edwards, AstraZeneca's "Man Behind the Curtain" Moment: Company's Blog Monitoring Database Is Hacked, B-NET Pharma, re-posted at "Is Something Not Quite Right With Stan - A Mental Health Blog," April 30, 2010
- V-Fluence, V-Fluence Responds to Hacking by Blogger, press release, April 30, 2010
- V-Fluence, Jay Byrne: President, firm profile, accessed January 20, 2012
- Dennis Rosen, v-Fluence responds to hacking by blogger - v-fluence - BIG Pharma - AstraZeneca, "Is Something Not Quite Right With Stan - A Mental Health Blog," April 30, 2010
- Dennis Rosen, A BRAVE NEW WORLD -Big Brother/Pharma Hires data miners and PR firms to track individuals and blogs as part of their huge spin campaign, "Is Something Not Quite Right With Stan - A Mental Health Blog," April 29, 2010
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