Fun_People Archive
6 Mar
An ugliness of the times...

Date: Sun,  6 Mar 94 14:51:40 PST
To: Fun_People
Subject: An ugliness of the times...

[This looks like more growing pains on the horizon of the information
super-town-hall... (Ouch!  Somebody block that metaphor!)  So who's really
responsible for what gets posted where?  What happens when someone else gets an
account in your name?  Is caveat emptor the only way?  On the internet no one
may know you're a dog, but lots of people may know that your account info says
you work for Wonder Dogs Inc. and report directly to Rin Tin Tin... -psl]

Subject: Richard Milhous Gates?

This is *not for attribution* (though it may be public elsewhere).

------- Forwarded Message

Microsoft and Dirty Tricks?

Message from:  PHILLIP S. WILSON
Personal Systems Marketing Specialist ( 
US Marketing and Services T/L 749-0884

The following is a copy of a letter sent to the Microsoft Board 
of Directors.  This letter is from William Zachmann regarding
an incident on the online Compuserve forum Canopus, and it makes for 
good reading.  This is being sent out with the full permission of 
William Zachmann.



Members of the Board of Directors
Microsoft Corporation
Redmond, Washington


     On January 25, 1994 someone using the name "Steve
Barkto" used CompuServe account 73754,1122 to post a number 
of messages on the Canopus Research Forum, purporting to be 
an IBM customer ("we spent 7 figures last year with IBM, we 
can complain") and implying that he was from Oklahoma City 
(OKC).  He made critical and derogatory statements about IBM 
and about specific individuals who are IBM employees.
Copies of the messages posted by "Barkto" are attached.
     I have subsequently learned, however, from what I
believe to be extremely reliable sources, that the account 
used by "Barkto" is in fact a Microsoft account 'owned' 
individually by Rick Segal.  Segal is an employee of 
Microsoft working in the Developer Relations Group (DRG) 
which group reports to Microsoft Vice President of Systems 
Strategy Jonathan Lazarus.  Segal has also been an active 
participant on the Canopus Research Forum on CompuServe.
     That the account used by "Barkto" was in fact a
Microsoft account 'owned' personally by Rick Segal can 
readily be verified by simple reference to Microsoft's own 
records as well as by reference to the CompuServe member 
records concerning the 73754,1122 account.  Both are readily 
available to the Microsoft Corporation and therefore to you 
as members of the Board of Directors of the Microsoft 
     At best, whoever perpetrated the "Barkto" postings
using that Microsoft account 'owned' by Microsoft employee 
Rick Segal has engaged in a stupid, immature, childish, 
irresponsible and inexcusable prank.  On that account, 
alone, there is no question that it is your obligation to 
Microsoft, Microsoft shareholders, Microsoft employees, 
Microsoft customers, to the public, to CompuServe, to the 
participants of the Canopus Research Forum, to members of 
the on-line community generally and to me as the sponsor of 
the Canopus Research Forum as well, thoroughly and 
completely to investigate who has used a Microsoft account 
'owned' by a Microsoft employee to do such a thing, to see 
to it that any and all Microsoft employees who may have been 
in any way involved in the perpetration of such an act are 
dismissed, whoever they may be and whatever their position 
is at the Microsoft Corporation, to issue a public apology 
to all concerned, and to see to it that policies are 
promptly put in place to ensure that no such thing ever 
happens again.
     At worst, however, the "Barkto" affair may be merely
the tip of a much larger and far more serious iceberg. 
There have been persistent rumors and claims throughout the 
industry of a deliberate and intentional "dirty tricks" 
campaign by Microsoft to spread disinformation about 
Microsoft competitors and to discredit critics of the 
Microsoft Corporation.  The office of Microsoft Vice 
President of Systems Strategy, Jonathan Lazarus and the 
operations reporting to him have repeatedly been the focus 
of such rumors.
     These rumors include claims that Microsoft has engaged
in a systematic practice of having employees of Microsoft as 
well as independent agents of Microsoft log onto on-line 
services such as CompuServe, Prodigy, American On-line, the 
Internet and others, sometimes under assumed names, to 
spread disinformation about Microsoft's competitors and to 
discredit critics of the Microsoft Corporation.  They have 
also included claims of deliberate efforts by Microsoft 
improperly to influence the editorial content of various 
publications and to silence critics of Microsoft in the 
     The "Barkto" incident, perpetrated by someone using a
Microsoft account 'owned' by a Microsoft employee in a group 
reporting to Microsoft Vice President of Systems Strategy 
Jonathan Lazarus lends credibility to these rumors.  While 
it certainly does not provide the basis for any reliable 
conclusion on the matter, it certainly does raise the 
possibility that "Barkto" was part of a much broader and, I 
should say, potentially much more sinister pattern of 
activity.  Further grounds for concern on this point are to 
be found in admissions made publicly by Rick Segal.
     An IBM employee, Dave Whittle, had been in private
correspondence with Segal by electronic mail and private 
messages as well as through phone conversations.  In a 
public message (#113984) posted on the Canopus Research 
Forum on CompuServe on February 11, 1994 at 6:15:14 EST 
Whittle, using his account 76711,1061 said (among other 
things): "Rick told me over a year ago when we were being 
open with each other that he had heard of instances where 
Steve Ballmer and other MS execs would use phony PPNs and 
names to have some fun on the forums."
     Segal, using his regular account (76276,2706) at
8:09:40 P.M. EST (5:09:40 PST) did not deny that in a 
message (#114109) on the Canopus Research Forum and 
responded as follows:  "Senior Execs have PPNs so they can 
go onto compuserve <sic>, go onto forums, enjoy a debate, 
have some fun, etc.  They are smart enough not to use real 
names so they don't have to put up with crap like this.  I 
told you this.  If you have a problem with it, I don't 
     I therefore publicly call upon you, as members of the
Board of Directors of the Microsoft Corporation, in exercise 
of your solemn fiduciary and other responsibilities, 
promptly to engage a reputable, independent, outside 
investigative agency; to give that agency full access to all 
relevant Microsoft records (including CompuServe records 
concerning accounts belonging to the Microsoft Corporation 
or to Microsoft employees); to require all Microsoft 
employees, regardless of position or status fully and 
truthfully to cooperate with that agency; and to charge that 
agency not only with the task of identifying the 
perpetrators of the "Barkto" affair, but also to investigate 
thoroughly the possibility that behind it there may have 
been a deliberate "dirty tricks" campaign waged by Microsoft 
under the direction of employees of the Microsoft 
     I also call upon you to pledge to make known publicly
the results of that investigation and further to pledge that 
any and all employees of the Microsoft Corporation who may 
have been involved in any way in the perpetration of or in 
covering up the "Barkto" incident and any possible, broader 
"dirty tricks" campaign will be required to resign and to 
proffer a public apology to all offended parties.
     One very simple procedure that the investigative agency
you hire can follow will be to compare the list of 
CompuServe and other on-line services' accounts paid for or 
sponsored by the Microsoft Corporation (which lists will be 
readily available both internally to Microsoft and through 
the various on-line services own records of Microsoft 
accounts which will surely be available to you) against the 
names and postings of individuals who, by their behavior, 
look like they might have been involved in a possible 
Microsoft "dirty tricks" disinformation campaign against 
competitors and critics.
     I will be happy to provide you with a list of names of
such individuals and the CompuServe account numbers ("PPNs") 
used by them based upon my own observations there.  I am 
quite sure many others in the on-line community will be 
willing to do the same, not only for CompuServe, but for 
Prodigy, American On-line, the Internet and other on-line 
services and facilities as well.
     A number of individuals have long been suspected of
being deliberate agents of a possible Microsoft "dirty 
tricks" campaign.  By a thorough and complete examination of 
Microsoft's own records and those of the various on-line 
services and networks involved, it will be readily 
determined whether any such individuals have used accounts 
belonging to or paid for or sponsored by the Microsoft 
     Beyond that, the investigative agency you hire should
also check Microsoft records and interview Microsoft 
employees to determine what, if any, business arrangements 
Microsoft may have had and what, if any, payments Microsoft 
has made to or for the benefit of any of the individuals 
who, by their behavior on one or another of the public on- 
line information services, appears to be a possible agent of 
a possible Microsoft "dirty tricks" campaign.
     Of course, all this could also be done under subpoena
by any government agency with an interest in possible 
illegal practices on the part of the Microsoft Corporation 
or by any third party that might undertake (or have ongoing) 
legal action against the Microsoft Corporation to which such 
a possible "dirty tricks" campaign might be relevant.  I 
urge you, however, to consider seriously both your legal 
obligations and responsibilities as members of the Microsoft 
Board of Directors and also your ethical and moral 
responsibilities and to act promptly to launch an 
investigation on your own initiative on behalf of your 
shareholders and others potentially affected by these 

Yours truly,

William F. Zachmann
Canopus Research

------- End of Forwarded Message

[=] © 1994 Peter Langston []