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“Astroturf” Presents a New and Real Threat

| Wednesday August 23rd, 2006 | 1 Comment

astroturf.jpgIf you think Astroturf is just fake grass that you put on your deck, check out the extensive WikiPedia article on it’s being also a term that describes artificial grassroots campaigns. In a world increasingly interconnected by hard to verify websites, photos, and videos, the ease with which we can assume “that’s real” becomes harder and harder. That’s not to say misleading or overly rosy public relations campaigns are anything new, but this new breed of under-the-table campaigns poses a particular threat that must be addressed. Bruce Sterling draws our attention to it in his latest post on political astroturfing. Companies too, and their PR firms are increasingly finding ways to blur straightforward communication, sometimes for little more than brand awareness, but sometimes maliciously.
Many of these astroturf campaigns have been debunked, and bloggers in particular seem to have a knack for catching them in their tracks. The story of Al Gore’s Penguin Army and McDonald’s Lincoln Fry are two great examples of failed astroturf campaigns, the former insipid, the latter relatively harmless.
I’m still a bit of a utopian optimist when it comes to internet technology, but the rise of “astroturf” should keep us all on our toes.

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  • http://youngie.prblogs.org Paull Young

    Hi Nick,
    You might be interested in having a look at the anti-astroturfing campaign I’ve started alongside fellow PR blogger Trevor Cook.
    The PR blogosphere has been discussing the topic for a few weeks now, and I’ve collected all the resources at the wiki page I’ve linked to above. I’ll be adding this post as well.