What are “cloaked websites”?

A handy reminder, via PR Watch, that corporations are increasingly aware that the public can sniff shamelessness, so they need to increase their obfuscation:

Jessie Daniels, an Associate Professor in the Urban Public Health program at Hunter College, New York, has identified a phenomenon she calls “cloaked Web sites,” or sites published by individuals or groups who deliberately conceal their authorship to disguise a hidden political agenda. Cloaked Web sites, Daniels points out, can have very real consequences, especially in the area of health. The youth-oriented Web site TeenBreaks.com, for example, looks like a site about reproductive health, but it is really a disguise for pro-life propaganda, similar to the way brick-and-mortar “Women’s Health Clinics” conceal staff counselors’ intent to keep women from choosing abortions. Daniels expects the Supreme Court‘s recent Citizens United ruling to increase corporate use of sophisticated and subtle branding ads that try to influence “values,” and direct how we think about health policy issues. One example is the Liberty Mutual insurance company’s “Responsibility Project,” an ad campaign and companion Web site that frame health issues like child obesity, fast food and smoking exclusively in terms of “personal responsibility” — a sophisticated rhetorical PR strategy first employed by the tobacco industry that makes it difficult or impossible to reframe the discussion to include any talk of corporate responsibility.

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