Blogger Anton Diaz denies involvement in rumored extortion from restaurateurs for favorable reviews

"Our Awesome Planet" blogger Anton Diaz released a statement today, January 24, saying that his food and travel blog is "NOT connected with, compensated by, or represented by any PR firm that would resort to restaurant extortion." Diaz wrote, "We don’t get advertising from restaurants or places we feature, and freebies pre- or post-blog posts to avoid conflict of interest. Otherwise, we disclose it specifically at the end of each blog post... We blog about happy experiences and we learned from our past mistakes not to blog about unpleasant experiences."

He added, "One thing is for sure-we will have a Bigger & Better Blogosphere in Manila after this exposé." Diaz linked his statement to a Sunday Inquirer Magazine article by Margaux Salcedo entitled "Please Don’t Give Blogging a Bad Name."  The controversial article cited how "one food blogger and his minions pretend to be unbiased and unpaid but...are now being used by PR firms." Salcedo related the experience of a certain "Georgia" with "The Firm" which was said to have "an arrangement" with "Big Bad Blogger" (BBB) and other bloggers.

The Firm supposedly offered Georgia their services for P120,000 per month for a year, which was subsequently lowered to P80,000 per month. Georgia "gently declined," according to Salcedo. A year later, Georgia opened a new restaurant and BBB supposedly wrote a "scathing review" on it. The Firm supposedly told Georgia after BBB’s review came out, "We can make sure he retracts his comments and clarifies that your restaurant is not bad but really good after all." They would do this "for the same price," Salcedo wrote. 

She added, "Maybe Georgia is overreacting to a negative review. Maybe The Firm was only claiming to have relations with Big Bad Blogger for their own sinister purposes, unbeknownst to Big Bad Blogger. Or maybe the suspicions are true and Big Bad Blogger bows to the highest bidder. Whatever the case, one thing’s for sure: Georgia is now afraid of the blogging community. And this fear resonates among other restaurateurs who have had the same experience."

Netizens have speculated that BBB is Diaz, prompting activist-artist Carlos Celdran to post on Facebook and Twitter that he "is just gonna ask directly. Huy. Anton Diaz. Are you the Big Bad Blogger? Only fair to give you chance to clear your name is now. Tama na all this innuendo. Clear your name if you can. And your pr firm too."

Diaz replied on Twitter, "Haha, Magpapapayat na nga ako.. siyempre hindi :)" In response, Celdran said, "Cool. Because all the chismis in the background implies its you. Thought you should know." Diaz Tweeted that the truth will come out and that he hoped Salcedo identified BBB and The Firm.

Market Manila, another popular food blog written by a management consultant, reacted to the issue: "I have RAILED vehemently against the lack of disclosure, the freebies, paid endorsements, etc. several times over the last several years, sometimes to an occasional outburst of indignation from other writers, press people, PR professionals, advertising folks, and readers of this blog... but my views on these matters have been consistent all along. If you are curious, you may wish to read or re-read these old posts."

He added, "And for an early situation that I exposed that sounds similar to what Margaux Salcedo described in her article today in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, read in the order given, these posts from two years ago:

Mad Crowd Media, Don't Piss Me Off!
Mad Crowd Media - The Concluding Post
P.S. Nestlé Just Sent An Email"

Meanwhile, Modern Epicurean Kitchen owner Stephanie Zubiri Tweeted, "I think more than the @bigbadblogger it’s the PR firm that is guilty of extortion. Blogs, just like any other form of media is just a tool... Whoever BBB really is, its him who’s giving blogging a bad name and not @margauxsalcedo." She also denied that she was Georgia.

Yesterday, a Twitter account named "Big Bad Blogger" was created. The account’s first tweet was "Just ate at Georgia’s restaurant."

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For more on this story, log on to Inquirer.net and Our Awesome Planet.

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