astroturfing — or fake democracy on the web

George Monbiot’s blog at The Guardian offers a chilling analysis of the practice of astroturfing, which Monbiot defines as follows:

fake grassroots campaigns that create the impression that large numbers of people are demanding or opposing particular policies. This deception is most likely to occur where the interests of companies or governments come into conflict with the interests of the public.

Monbiot is researching this topic and was contacted by a whistleblower who admitted to having 70 personas he used to promote corporate interests on discussion forums. Monbiot poses the question: how do we stop this practice? I agree with him when he says that astroturfing “has the potential to destroy the internet as a forum for constructive debate” and “jeopardises the notion of online democracy.”

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