The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
The Story of a Doctor, His Lawsuit Against Nobel, and His Social Media Operation
April 24, 2015
Tucked away in the attic of the internet is 4chan, an imageboard where things from funny stories to celebrity nudes are shared. ‘The Fappening’, which occurred in August of last year when hundreds of celebrities’ personal photos were shared, put 4chan on the vanguard of the internet, as the leaks were followed back to a hacker group claiming to be regulars on the website.
Celebrity photos aren’t the only things to come out of the strange imageboard though, on Tuesday the 14th, a member of the /pol/ board shared what at first seemed to be a silly story, but when backed up with emails and contacts to prove it, turned into a conspiracy reaching into the upper echelons of the scientific community.
The anonymous user said that he once worked for a marketing company called Plug Marketing. The company’s CEO is Zoe Platek, a prominent member of the social marketing community.
The user went on to explain that at Plug Media, many of their projects involved using ‘ghost’ Twitter accounts to make certain things trend, so that more people would see them, such as political campaigns, scandal stories, and even products from obscure companies. These accounts are mass produced and marketed by SNS Analytics. This practice, known as shilling, is apparently the company’s real purpose.
The user then began his story after he was asked about his projects. He explained that in his time at Plug Media he was on the social media team, in charge of tactics for pushing stories on highly trafficked websites online. In his time on this team, Plug Media was contacted about shilling for a Chinese doctor named Rongxiang Xu, who at the time was pursuing a lawsuit against the Nobel Assembly for not awarding him the Nobel prize for Physiology and Medicine in 2012.
Xu claimed that his initial research into reprogramming cells was vital to the award winning John Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka’s completed project, but since he had no peer-reviewed journal entries, patents, or anything proving this was true, was still not awarded the prize, nevertheless, he pursued legal action.
Pursuing legal action against an organization that promotes peace, progressiveness, and scientific advancement is not good for one’s public image, doing so without any evidence is even worse. Even with these two negative points leaning towards him, he had immense public support through social media and news media.
The user says Plug Media’s social media team was contacted the same year by an undisclosed source to work on pushing positive information, and maybe even falsified information, about the doctor, into the twitter feeds, Facebook posts, and Reddit threads of people around the globe.
Bigger news outlets picked up the story and expanded on it, Plug Media was paid for their service, and the story was over.
Or was it? Just hours after this anonymous media manipulator called out Plug Media and doctor Xu, MEBO, the doctor’s main research firm, put out an obituary for Xu, their website is now shut down and broadcasting only Xu’s obituary. There is no other evidence of doctor Xu’s death though, no statements from family, no news stories, nothing. Just a strange and haphazard obituary.
A militant social media campaign, a lawsuit against Nobel, the apparent death of a man after his incrimination, and the missing details that can only be found on a website that’s been shut down. There’s only one question left.
How do the dots connect?