Sally Bercow and Alan Davies – who you may recall were a little too keen to blacken the name of Lord McAlpine – are not the only prominent twitterati caught abusing social media recently.
Wonga, the so-called payday loans company (that’s “usurer” to you and me, readers), has found itself at the wrong end of a Guardian exposé after systematically attempting to undermine the reputation of its chief gadfly, anti-payday loans campaigner and Labour MP Stella Creasy. It did so by using a bogus Twitter account to suggest she was “mental”, “nuts” and a “self-serving egomaniac”.
The Twitter account in question was operated by one “Daniel Sargant” – an alias for what Wonga management, when put on the spot, characterised as a “junior employee” – evidently with the idea of suggesting that he or she was an unauthorised maverick. Bearing in mind the likely educational attainments of most junior employees at Wonga, this is a remarkably sophisticated one whose talents are obviously being wasted in the lower ranks of a payday loans company.
A more compelling theory – voiced in The Guardian – is that “Daniel Sargant” is none other than Luke Manning, editor of Open Wonga, a website dedicated to educating consumers about the brand. Its inference is based on the fact that at least one of “Daniel’s” blog comments has the same internet protocol (IP) address as a computer used by Manning when, quite separately, he made a comment on another blog. (Manning, by the way, has denied any suggestion that “Daniel” is his alter ego.)
While it is entirely understandable that Wonga might wish to bury its best-known brand attribute of “4,214% APR”, manipulating phoney Twitter accounts is probably not the way to do it. Not least because this kind of conduct cuts directly across the company’s credo of “Straight Talking Money.”
As does fiddling its Wikipedia entry to polish the corporate facts. And yet maybe, in a perverse sort of way, we should be grateful to Wonga for its underhand, if hamfisted, tactics. Had it not been for a determined attempt to erase any reference to its recent and controversial £25m (they say) sponsorship deal with Newcastle United, I would never have known that a survey of 1,000 fans had uncovered serious concerns about the deal, and the people behind it:
Not, admittedly, the sort of thing you want trumpeted about your brand.
Wonga has issued a creepy apology to Creasy, full of the PR speak we occasionally record. Open Wonga’s Manning says he’s launched an investigation into the mysterious blogger. Should be interesting.