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Private politics daily: What makes firms the target of internet/media criticism? An empirical investigation of firm, industry, and institutional factors
Advances in Strategic Management
Private politics refers to situations in which activists or NGOs try to push firms to conform to social standards (regarding, for instance, human rights and environmental protection) without public policy intervention. The existing literature on private politics has focused on large campaigns such as consumer boycotts, and looked at the impact of those boycotts on firms' financial performance and on the likelihood that firms comply with activist demands. Even though these large campaigns are important, focusing on them leads to neglecting the fact that a large portion of the time and resources that activists consecrate to private politics is used to monitor firms and criticize them through Internet posting and media statements, rather than to launch high profile campaigns. Little is known, however, about what drives these activists when they criticize companies, why they target certain companies and not others, and whether this criticism should be considered as a primary step in the production of full-fledged campaigns. In this paper, we fill this gap by exploring a unique international database of CSR-based criticisms against Fortune 500 companies for the 2006-2009 period. This database allows us to look at the impact of a broad range of factors including industry differences, country/institutional differences and firm-specific dimensions, on the likelihood that a certain firm will be targeted by activist critique. Results indicate that criticism is driven by strategic intents. Similar to previous literature, large and visible firms in certain industries are more targeted than others. In addition, these firms also tend to come from countries with strong institutions and high standards of living.
Private politics, activists, Internet/media criticism
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