Where, where to begin? I'm going to have to break this into parts. Here's a link to yesterday, where I introduced the subject. Today, this post will be half "introduction to astroturfing," and half "freelance astroturfing jobs." Next post, I want to show what I've found exploring corporate, high-end astroturfing.
Places to start:
Highlights some famous fake grassroots support incidents in the past, including
* staged fan incidents for both The Beatles and Frank Sinatra
* Nixon's aides distributing faked opinion polls and letters-to-the-editor during Watergate
* Microsoft during its antitrust prosecution in 1998
...and now we move into the modern, online form:
* Walmart faking support through its public relations firm, Edelman
* and (since Paulites will never cease to deny it) Ron Paul spambots during the 2008 election
* dozens of others, including the infamous Tea Party
...provides several examples of both political and commercial astroturfing.
I'd like to point out one thing here: one of the business examples is in March 2006, when video game manufacturers launched "Video Game Voters Network", to protest laws curtailing violent video games. That issue also has some genuine support, from me, even. Many gamers genuinely feel that they'd rather the government keep its nose out of video game content. One of the chief champions against violent video games is the infamous Jack Thompson, whom is quite rightly reviled and hated by genuine, honest fans whenever his name comes up. THE POINT: Just because a cause is just, or has real grass-roots support, does not mean that it also can't be a party to astroturfing.
A watchdog site for spotting and reporting incidents of astroturfing both political and commercial. This is one eye-opening site, with case studies, a proposal for a code of ethics, and inquiries into what kind of thinking brings us this kind of dishonest marketing in the first place. Well worth a bookmark. One link I found from there goes to an earlier Alternet list of "scariest Americans," one of whom is Richard Berman, president of Berman and Company:
"Washington D.C. PR man Richard Berman specializes in creating tax-exempt front groups -- ad-hoc "think tanks" that sound respectable enough (The Center for Consumer Freedom, Center For Union Facts) but in truth spread disinformation through ads, skewed studies and sham Web sites on behalf of companies such as Philip Morris, Coca-Cola and McDonald's. The Center has campaigned hard and dirty against the Americans with Disabilities Act (ramps are for pussies), no-smoking sections in restaurants, efforts to prevent mad cow disease, and campaigns to limit junk food consumption."
Now, we haven't gotten to Digg, Reddit, and StumbleUpon, yet. But it's important to note just how many media sources out there are not whom they claim to be.
Wanna job as a "social media expert"?
on Mechanical Turk:
For five cents, "Bookmark this URL in your reddit, delicious, stumbleupon acct"
For five cents, "Social bookmark my site to any major social bookmarking sites ( NO Delicious Bookmarks). Sites include: stumbleupon, spotback, mixx, reddit, diigo, mister-wong, propeller, folkd, spurl.net,linkagogo,blinklist."
"I am willing to purchase 4000 bookmarks for delicious, digg and other top social bookmarking site."
"I am looking for someone to provide social bookmarking submission service for a website. I need a price for 50 submissions."
"We're looking for someone to post up to 75 Social bookmarking Submissions using 2 (or more) user accounts for a total of up to 150 submission on a weekly basis."
"I need to have someone submit several different sites to social bookmarking sites using socialmarker.com."
While we're on Fiverr, there's also the Social Marketing category.
"Twitter/Stumble upon: I would like someone to get 10,000 followers and run an effective twitter campaign for my site. By effective I mean that this person posts tweets and they send traffic to my site.
Digg: I want someone to submit each article I post, 2 per week, to digg and do awesome. I request all potential digg users have adaquete experience and can get my stories on the front page atleast once per month."
This one promised $1 for every 25 "bookmarking."
Any person having experience with social bookmarking sites like digg, stumbleupon etc. (If possible show your work)"
"Need experienced social media marketers on Digg, stumblupon, reddit or similar social media sites.
Please give examples of past work, your profiles and how you approach social media
You will need to be able to submit 1 post and get it to the front page of a social media site through ethical means."
("ethical means?" how could that even work?)
These bid requests has since been canceled.
IMPORTANT note: Do not let this reflect on the freelance job websites themselves. If you are a member of these sites and report to them any spam, suspicious activity, illegal deals and scams, etc., they are quick to shoot it down. But of course, 50 more spring up in their places, just like with any shady web practice.
There's more next time.