The Shocking Practice of Internet Astroturfing

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I'm sorry to bore you with this if you already know about it, but I read it in a newspaper a few minutes ago and I find it shocking:

The weapon used by both state and corporate players is a technique known as astroturfing. An astroturf campaign is one that mimics spontaneous grassroots mobilisations but which has in reality been organised. Anyone writing a comment piece in Mandarin critical of the Chinese government, for instance, is likely to be bombarded with abuse by people purporting to be ordinary citizens, upset by the slurs against their country.

But many of them aren't upset: they are members of the 50 Cent Party, so-called because one Chinese government agency pays five mao (half a yuan) for every post its tame commenters write. Teams of these sock-puppets are hired by party leaders to drown out critical voices and derail intelligent debates.
From http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/libertycentral/2010/dec/13/astroturf-libertarians-internet-democracy"

I've always wondered about some of the Amazon reviews...
 
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Borek

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It is shocking that it is shocking. These techniques existed long before internet. People were organized to march, to rally, to send mails, to make phone calls and so on. Why would it stop now?
 
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I concede you are infinitely smarter than me, Borek, for not being surprised by this, indeed all the more surprising since it has been around for such a very long time too. In my simple and naive mind all this is indeed shocking.

That governments pay people to bombard blogs anonymously and irrelevantly, posing as ordinary, reasonable citizens, creating the impression that the dissenter is in the minority; that large corporations pay people to pose in the anonymity of the internet as scientists to try to discredit scientific research; that the internet may be over-run with posts by people paid to make such posts, and it is difficult to discern when they are and when they are not, thus de-railing frank debate; that topics where more money is at stake are more prone to such attacks; that volimuminous fictitions and irrelevant matter swamps internet debates, making clear debate impossible in the internet, that stalwart of freedom and truth; that websites such as Amazon and Flixster, very popular websites, are used to dishonestly promote the propaganda of corporations-- it is indeed surprising that such trifles shock a simple mind as mine.
 

Borek

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I am not much smarter, more like I am old enough to lose delusions that all people are honest.
 
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I'm getting few cents for my each post in PF.
 
So we're back in square one, where actually knowing real people had some value.
 

OmCheeto

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I am not much smarter, more like I am old enough to lose delusions that all people are honest.
Can I quote you on that?

o:)
 
Uhhhh... How is this shocking? I thought this was called "marketing" a product or person, and as Borek said, it was probably done when a caveman gave a haunch of meat to a neighbor in return for favors to be named later. :wink:

Seriously, this is only shocking if you're still wondering why that snake oil didn't cure your lumbago.
 

OmCheeto

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Uhhhh... How is this shocking? I thought this was called "marketing" a product or person, and as Borek said, it was probably done when a caveman gave a haunch of meat to a neighbor in return for favors to be named later. :wink:

Seriously, this is only shocking if you're still wondering why that snake oil didn't cure your lumbago.
Some of us don't pay attention to the chatter around us, because we've heard it our whole lives.

I'm not sure who's fault that is.

But I'd say, it doesn't matter at the moment, because everyone is watching now.
 
Some of us don't pay attention to the chatter around us, because we've heard it our whole lives.

I'm not sure who's fault that is.

But I'd say, it doesn't matter at the moment, because everyone is watching now.
True, and it's a good thing that people are watching, and that there are so many of them.
 
J

jd.morrison

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When I posted this I suspected people would waltz in here with snide and condescending comments like "oh yeah we've know this for a long time, and you must be an idiot if you don't", which is why I began: "I'm sorry to bore you with this if you already know about it....". The vanity of cleverness is too strong for some of us...

EDIT: did any of you read the article and not just the excerpt I gave?, because it seems you have not. The article talks about more than just the Chinese government.
 
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When I posted this I suspected people would waltz in here with snide and condescending comments like "oh yeah we've know this for a long time, and you must be an idiot if you don't", which is why I began: "I'm sorry to bore you with this if you already know about it....". The vanity of cleverness is too strong for some of us...

EDIT: did any of you read the article and not just the excerpt I gave?, because it seems you have not. The article talks about more than just the Chinese government.
Well, this IS a bit like the time when people began to realize that quiz shows weren't honest, then wrestling wasn't real... you get it. This just isn't news in ANY country, or for any company.
 
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That's like saying the HIV is not interesting because viruses have been mutating for many thousands of years.

It seems no one has anything of substance to say on this, so the moderators can go ahead and lock this thread for all I care.
 

OmCheeto

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When I posted this I suspected people would waltz in here with snide and condescending comments like "oh yeah we've know this for a long time, and you must be an idiot if you don't", which is why I began: "I'm sorry to bore you with this if you already know about it....". The vanity of cleverness is too strong for some of us...

EDIT: did any of you read the article and not just the excerpt I gave?, because it seems you have not. The article talks about more than just the Chinese government.
I read the article. But I wasn't too shocked. A lot of times I give people the benefit of the doubt and just pretend that they are playing devil's advocate. But I have to agree with the author overall.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/libertycentral/2010/dec/13/astroturf-libertarians-internet-democracy
But it's a depressing experience, as instead of contesting the issues I raise, many of those who disagree bombard me with infantile abuse, or just keep repeating a fiction, however often you discredit it. This ensures that an intelligent discussion is almost impossible – which appears to be the point.
Been there too many times. Once debate is washed out with wall upon wall of Palinesque garbage and lies, intelligent people* start leaving the room. I mean really, what's the point of continuing such a discussion? It's like arguing with a crow. Squak! Squak! Squak! Squak!


I liked the concluding paragraph:

The internet is a remarkable gift, which has granted us one of the greatest democratic opportunities since universal suffrage. We're in danger of losing this global commons as it comes under assault from an army of trolls and flacks, many of them covertly organised or trained. The question for all of us – the Guardian, other websites, and everyone who benefits from this resource – is what we intend to do about it. It's time we fought back and reclaimed the internet for what it does best: exploring issues, testing ideas, opening the debate.
I've only done proper battle once with someone who appeared to have an "agenda". Fortunately, it was not at this forum, as I used very naughty language. (Shhhh..... Don't tell anyone. I called the person an idiot! And didn't apologize for doing it. And still don't. Though I really wanted to call him an *******.)

---------------------------------
*Of course, uber-intelligent people seldom set foot in P&WA in the first place.
 
That's like saying the HIV is not interesting because viruses have been mutating for many thousands of years.

It seems no one has anything of substance to say on this, so the moderators can go ahead and lock this thread for all I care.
You started the thread, but you don't own or moderate it, and your analogy is just wrong. I'm sorry that this has you terrified and appalled, but this EXACT practice isn't new. Your ignorance of a practice that is self-explanatory didn't spark the outrage or discussion you'd hoped for... move on.

edit: Oh yeah, if you REALLY don't want to get hardened apathy... maybe don't put the word, "Shocking" in the title of the thread. Just a thought.
 
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Deceit is not new. Of course I know that. Viruses mutating and evolving is not new. Nevertheless the HIV is interesting due to its special qualities which it has evolved. Astroturfing is nevertheless interesting even if it is good old deceit. And I apologise if I am not part of your enlightened circle where such things are passe, a circle which does not include the Guardian and its readers. And to quote myself again: "I'm sorry to bore you with this if you already know about it"; if you consider yourself enlightened or uninterested enough then this thread was clearly not meant for you.

No one is required to take up the study of the HIV, neither is he required to be shocked by it. Neither should we take up a discussion of astroturfing if it bores us. Yet we do not ridicule the biologist who does take an interest in HIV because we have known about evolution and evolving viruses for so long. If a subject is generally admitted to be shocking we need not accept it to be so for ourselves, but we must not pretend there is merit in such a deficit of sensitivity and love of truth.

I wonder where you get the idea I was hoping for outrage? Where you quote me I said I was looking for substance, of which you have not provided. In your first post you do not engage with any of the issues in the article. You roundly dismiss it as deceit and therefore uninteresting, which is to miss the point. You end with a cliche about snake oil. The rest of your posts have been much the same. You say my analogy is false, but do not bother to explain why.

It is easy to dismiss a discussion out of hand without having thought about it, much easier than presenting honest arguments where we have grappled with the matter.

If you actually read my post, I said I would not care if the moderators did close the thread, not that I wanted the thread closed. Up to that point all the posts were irrelevent or insulted me; why should I care if the thread was closed? And aren't threads closed for exactly those reasons?
Indeed, all the posts except for the second one of this page have been irrelevent, including my own.

If you came here to congratulate yourself for knowing about astroturfing before me, you shouldn't have bothered. If you came here to tell me deceit is not new, you shouldn't have bothered.

EDIT: I suppose we should leave the word "shocking" to such deserving occasions as when our sports team loses badly.
 
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That's almost as shocking as Internet Astrodoming, where Chinese citizens are dutifully sheltered against undesirable elements...



Like https://www.amazon.com/dp/0061962236/?tag=pfamazon01-20?
Good lord sir, this means the fall of the republic! :wink:

I really think little has changed: suckers still are more likely to fall for raw deals on or offline, including deceptive testimonials and more. If this hasn't been an issue for people since the first "before and after" pic in an ad... well, then it's a paper bag they've been living in.
 
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