On-line astroturf: How corporations FAKE grass-roots support (George Monbiot)

Online astroturfing is more advanced and more automated than we’d imagined.
By George Monbiot. Published in the Guardian 23rd February 2011

Every month more evidence piles up, suggesting that online comment threads and forums are being hijacked by people who aren’t what they seem to be. The anonymity of the web gives companies and governments golden opportunities to run astroturf operations: fake grassroots campaigns, which create the impression that large numbers of people are demanding or opposing particular policies. This deception is most likely to occur where the interests of companies or governments come into conflict with the interests of the public. For example, there’s a long history of tobacco companies creating astroturf groups to fight attempts to regulate them.

After I last wrote about online astroturfing, in December, I was contacted by a whistleblower. He was part of a commercial team employed to infest internet forums and comment threads on behalf of corporate clients, promoting their causes and arguing with anyone who opposed them. Like the other members of the team, he posed as a disinterested member of the public. Or, to be more accurate, as a crowd of disinterested members of the public: he used 70 personas, both to avoid detection and to create the impression that there was widespread support for his pro-corporate arguments. I’ll reveal more about what he told me when I’ve finished the investigation I’m working on.

But it now seems that these operations are more widespread, more sophisticated and more automated than most of us had guessed. Emails obtained by political hackers from a US cyber-security firm called HB Gary Federal suggest that a remarkable technological armoury is being deployed to drown out the voices of real people.

Read more.

3 thoughts on “On-line astroturf: How corporations FAKE grass-roots support (George Monbiot)”

  1. Apropos fake grassroots…
    The rabid right-wing routinely sends out emails (like daily) to their followers with rabid rants and when critical legislation is up for a vote they provide a SUPER valuable service that allows each recipient to FAX every single Senator, Congressman, Governor, sometimes with options on “only the Dems” or only the “Repubs” or only the Senate, etc, thus making it seem like there is an army of grassroots supporters when there is just ONE.
    That is it appears there are 535 activists on their side when there is only ONE. Capish?

    They call these blast faxes, and I believe this is one of the reasons WE the sane Americans have lost so many critical votes in every fight we undertake in our government.
    We desperately need exactly this same service for our side to even the score.

    You may want to include this information in your research.

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