A USA Today reporter and editor were targeted with an online smear campaign not long after publishing stories investigating the Pentagon's propaganda contractors, the paper alleged today. Just days after Tom Vanden Brook published his first story on the Pentagon's "information operations," a website registered in his name cropped up spreading false info; when editor Ray Locker's byline appeared on a later story, a similar site appeared for him. Someone also opened fake Facebook and Twitter accounts in their names.
"I find it creepy and cowardly that somebody would hide behind my name," Vanden Brook says. His Wikipedia page was also edited to say he'd "gained worldwide notoriety" for "misreporting" a 2006 West Virginia mining disaster. Vanden Brook reported incorrectly at the time that 12 to 13 miners had survived, based on statements from mine operators, but so did most major news outlets. The campaign is "something I've never experienced in 30 years" in journalism, Locker tells the Washington Post. The websites were taken down after reporters asked the Pentagon about them, and the various social media accounts were closed for violating terms of service. (Read more smear campaign stories.)