Astroturfing

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= "A genuine bubble of opinion is called a "grass roots" movement. So faking that is called "astroturfing."


Definition

From the Wikipedia:

"Astroturfing is a fake grassroots campaign that seeks to create the impression of legitimate buzz or interest in a product, service or idea. Often this movement is motivated by a payment or gift to the writer of a post or comment or may be written under a pseudonym." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astroturfing)


Example

1. Discussion of China's campaign, by Mike Elgan:

"the Chinese didn't invent the idea. In the US, for example, political campaigns, companies and other organizations have been known to use paid staff or volunteers to post messages en masse to create a false impression that the public supports or opposes something. A genuine bubble of opinion is called a "grass roots" movement. So faking that is called "astroturfing."

The difference between China's 50 Cent Army and astroturfing is fourfold. First, is scale. A typical astroturfing campaign might involve a few or maybe a dozen people at most. Or, in the case of a mass mailing, it could involve thousands of people who voice or submit their opinions only once or twice. China's approach involves thousands of times more people.

The second difference is duration. China's 50 Cent Army works every day, all year, year after year. Astroturfing efforts, on the other hand, are one-off projects designed to achieve specific, limited goals. The reason is that a free press and the machinations of multi-party democracy quickly expose astroturfing projects and turn public opinion against their agendas. Because the Chinese government is accountable to neither the public nor the press, it can sustain Internet mass-propaganda efforts indefinitely.

Third, China's 50 Cent Army, when used abroad, hits people who aren't expecting it. When a political group in the US fakes a grass roots movement, it does so in an environment where people are skeptical and have their guards up. But most people in the West have no idea that China is constantly swaying public opinion on the Internet, and tend to accept what they see at face value.

And finally, China's degree of organization far exceeds any known effort elsewhere. The government's Culture Ministry reportedly trains and even certificates Web propagandists. It’s run like a professional organization." (http://itmanagement.earthweb.com/columns/article.php/3795091/How+Chinas+50+Cent+Army+Could+Wreck+Web+2.0.htm)


2. American right-wing libertarians, by George Monbiot:

“I’m suggesting that some of the efforts to prevent intelligence from blooming seem to be organised, and that neither website hosts nor other commenters know how to respond.

For his film (Astro)Turf Wars, Taki Oldham secretly recorded a training session organised by a rightwing libertarian group called American Majority. The trainer, Austin James, was instructing Tea Party members on how to “manipulate the medium”(11). This is what he told them:

“Here’s what I do. I get on Amazon; I type in “Liberal Books”. I go through and I say “one star, one star, one star”. The flipside is you go to a conservative/ libertarian whatever, go to their products and give them five stars. … This is where your kids get information: Rotten Tomatoes, Flixster. These are places where you can rate movies. So when you type in “Movies on Healthcare”, I don’t want Michael Moore’s to come up, so I always give it bad ratings. I spend about 30 minutes a day, just click, click, click, click. … If there’s a place to comment, a place to rate, a place to share information, you have to do it. That’s how you control the online dialogue and give our ideas a fighting chance.”

Over 75% of the funding for American Majority, which hosted this training session, comes from the Sam Adams Alliance(12). In 2008, the year in which American Majority was founded, 88% of the alliance’s money came from a single donation, of $3.7m(13). A group which trains rightwing libertarians to distort online democratic processes, in other words, was set up with funding from a person or company with a very large wallet." (http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2010/12/13/reclaim-the-cyber-commons/)


More Information

  1. Virtual astroturfing or Astroturfing 2.0 by the healthcare industry opposed to Obama, at

http://www.businessinsider.com/health-insures-caught-paying-facebook-users-virtual-currency-to-send-letters-to-congress-opposing-reform-bill-2009-12