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A Reminder That Asstroturfing Exists

Date/Time Permalink: 03/06/09 03:05:19 pm
Category: General

Fresh off the presses, another asstroturfing site brags about how they game social bookmarking like it was Three-Card Monte. The story got posted on Reddit so Redditors can laugh and point at Digg, as if the exact same thing never happens on Reddit.

Of all the spam and advertising fraud out there, it is perhaps asstroturfing that is the meanest. Asstroturfers undermine the social web. The story you see that's voted up to the front page, even though it's a troll? People were paid to vote that up. Your social-network-site "friend" who recommends spams and scams to you non-stop? He's paid to pretend to be your friend. The comments that flood a story, flaming about one side of the issue, insulting and modding down everybody who objects, and make it sound like it's the world-against-you? They're paid actors. The troll who harassed you in a thread for numerous replies until you gave up in frustration? Paid to do that.

Like email spam, there is no calculating the damage done to society by asstroturfers. The human factors include many forms of stress. And after a while, after getting stung too many times, you start to look at everything suspiciously. Is there no one on the web who is sincere? Are they all just paid trolls and bots, all out to dogpile on just you? How can you function in this environment and *not* get paranoid?

Previously in a related post, I made the case for Why Social Bookmarking Will Always Suck. I'd like to point out two things from the comment thread on that post:

(a) FSDaily, still, to this hour, does not suck. The people there seem to be genuinely concerned with making the site as honest as they can. But what can even the most honest person in the world do against an army of bogus accounts? If I, myself, ran a social website, I have no idea how I'd eradicate the problem. Bots are easy to catch. People being paid fifty cents each to asstroturf are not.

(b) Ironically enough, somebody picked that blog post to spam a social marketing company called "Wide Circle". As the name suggests (I read the 'how it works' page), it's kind of a group structure for spamblogs - kind of like "you vote up my spam and I'll vote up yours". I'm leaving it there, because it's just the perfect, textbook example of what I'm talking about.

don't blame me - I voted for Penguin Pete!

Bonus buck: The Social Marketing Hall of Shame. Thy name is despair.

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