The practice of corporate Astroturfing is a ubiquitous, misleading,dubious and at times Illegal form of corporate advertising ( in my opinion it’s really corporate) propaganda which unintended consequences and effects have majorly detrimental effects on an already weak middle class, economy and national security.
I say ubiquitous because it seems to be ( actually it IS ) everywhere from P2P pirate sites to your favorite internet portal to Youtube Facebook and back around in a massive never ending cycle and circle I say Illegal because:
A ) Astroturfing plain and simple IS illegal in fact the current penalty fine for Astroturfing is about $13,000 , astroturfing often goes hand in hand with infringement and piracy yet Astroturfers are seldomly caught much less prosecuted and fined.
B ) In some cases it clearly violates antitrust and antimonopoly laws including but not limited to The Sherman Act amongst other laws.
C) Astroturfing techniques can be used and often are used to fund terrorism and or recruiting by such organizations,thus being a rather serious threat to national security.
The reality is that in today’s age of ecommerce,social media interactivity a corporation or special interest organization selling a product,service,brand or ideology can readily and easily log into any forum and post unlimited advertisements (reviews) of their goods and not a single individual was aware that there were doing so. To the outside would all these comments would look as though they are being posted by differing users, when in reality it is just one.
Could this be really happening? What would Astroturfing look like in practice?
So I decided to perform my own investigation and lay out this issue for the general public’s consumption. In the first instance I decided to follow the ‘money’ or the ‘market leaders. This would be the top three leaders with this rationale, being Internet sales-vs-market presence. The the latter being sorted out by ‘has-themes’ and if one was Astroturfing then these ‘themes’ would have repeatable markers.
To further illustrate the point, the further links below will direct the reader to the way and manner relatively skilled ASTROTURFERS exploit search engine /SEO algorithms as well as in the case of Google their adword features in my opinion to better illustrate the architecture of what this looks likehttp://www.google.com/insidesearch/howsearchworks/algorithms.html
One of the primary objectives of Astroturfing and Spamming is to INCREASE the company’s search engine ranks, so with this in mind the most obvious place to start would be a basic Google search. Typing in the company and pick out a few of the ranking returns at the top of Page 1, this is place where Spam more than likely occurs.
To the outside all these comments would look as though they are being posted by a myriad of different users and Google search results would seem natural and true when in reality it is just one or two paid specialists making matters worse and to further illustrate the dire need for transparency and accountability, one needs to look no further than wikipedia
Wikipedia is a high value site so a Search Optimization team is going to target that but it bears some risk as anybody can seemingly come in and edit your text which is not necessarily the case in light of the recent scandal wikipedia found themselves in.
Wikipedia was caught offering a PR service offering to schew and edit information on behalf of paying interested parties regardless of what industry ,profession or political affiliation or “social causes” they may operate and or engage in
Obviously, not a very “organic” populist or accurate source of information.
However, Wikipedia are now making an “effort” to correct this/
Now, if we take a look at a sector of the PC & Gaming Aftermarket Hardware Industry
and we compare the results from a widely known and popular trade publication within that industry against Google search results we clearly see that the trade publication shows disparate results whilst the former results are blatantly skewed in favor of certain companies offering similar products.http://bit.ly/1lBnIQo Wikipedia:http://bit.ly/1xyX5Nb
In The illustration you will find a table of Google search results, showing clearly an idea as to what “Astroturfing” looks like
Don’t forget, it helps to have a fresh browser window when searching in repetition as Google will return lower results as it tries to assist in refining search results. For example input Gelid, Shin Etsu and then Arctic silver and include the omitted results.
This clearly gives us an idea as to what “Astroturfing” looks like.
Another disturbing example of Astroturfing techniques is.when news broke recently that YouTube had placed deodorant and beer advertisements on ISIS recruiting videos uploaded onto the site. Outrageous yes–but it’s only one particularly jarring reminder that Google has a corporate habit of placing profits above all else. Remember too, that not only was Google placing ads on ISIS videos, but by doing so was putting money into the pockets of terrorist and its own coffers.
If one were to go deeper into the dark jungle that is YouTube, moving past the assortment of deodorant,men’s grooming products and beer advertisements on ISIS recruiting videos one would see the obvious, an entrenched, cleverly organized business model that enables Google to rake in millions, perhaps billions, by creating partnerships with cash-seeking YouTube users and shady middlemen who routinely monetize content they don’t own whilst at the same time hundreds of Facebook pages were discovered to be exclusively dedicated for the purposes of promoting and recruiting for the terrorist group and yes the above mentioned videos where linked and embedded to these social media pages to the extent that the “ Hacktivist” group Anonymous had to utilize “black hat” techniques in order to shut some of these pages down in order to disrupt their activities which is ironic in that we now have a “vigilante” group having to do the job of the NSA and DHS as they seem too overly preoccupied and concerns with eavesdropping and spying on all of us whilst obviously being asleep on the job and oblivious to what is happening.
Now in the entertainment industry the practice of Astroturfing can clearly be seen and felt in the unscrupulous practices of major corporate brands, advertising agencies and in some cases major record labels and their affiliation of Google/YouTube.
By way of example when visiting torrent site forums while searching for infringing pirated content whether it be an artist’s/band release or more often than not these days a “leak”,a newly released major motion picture,or television series, it is common that these forums are often used as directories for the P2P pirate sites and you bet you have paid
moderators and “influencers” posting comments and links to the infringing sites which once you land on such sites you are suddenly inundated by adverts in some cases from some very popular “household “ brands this, in my opinion clearly gives us evidentiary cause to raise the following issue, these same brands and add agencies are looking the other way whilst being guilty of contributory and vicarious infringement especially since they are clearly profiting from their associations with the tech giant
further more the links below will help give a greater,bigger view as to how ubiquitous and endemic the situation is :
USC Annenberg Lab Transparency Report :http://www.annenberglab.com/sites/default/files/uploads/USCAnnenbergLab_AdReport_Jan2013.pdf