Friday, November 13, 2009

Tories caught astroturfing blog comments

Astroturfing is paying people to comment on blogs &c. It is related to viral marketing, product placement, guerilla marketing and a host of other ways to influence social consciousness through paying people to evangelise.

Fair play to Left Foot Forward, who did a bit of research on a typical piece of pro-Conservative commentary on their blog, and traced the iP address back to Anne Nunan, Director of IT at Conservative Central Office, 25 Victoria St and Vince Cooper of the same address. Their response, when challenged, like that of several commentators on the LFF blog was "So what?".

So only this: If I am conversing with someone, I take it that we are conversing as human to human. We may disagree, but I expect a level playing field, eyeball to eyeball. I do not expect the bloke I chat to in the pub to be in the pay of some corporation or other, so that when he says he prefers PCs to Macs, he is expressing his real opinion, rather than parroting a line for which he will later be able to claim an allowance. Perhaps when he plays back a tape recording of the conversation.

In short, astroturfing et. al. undermines the reality of interpersonal relationships. I anticipate another cut-glass yawn and another "So what" from Conservatives Central Office over this, but that is to be expected, as only a fool would expect a conservative to understand authenticity.

Over the years I have had hundreds of exchanges with global heating deniers, chiefly on openDemocracy, and in the process I often wondered whether they are paid by Esso/Exxon, on the grounds that their arguments are so standardised and uniform. And devoid of merit.

1 comment:

The Tattlesnake said...

This sort of thing is also going on in the US, with paid 'trolls' -- often pretending to be progressives -- posting obnoxious or virulent anti-Obama comments on left-wing blogs. Obviously, some conservative think tank, marketing company or Frank Luntz-type believes this helps change minds or turn independents against such ideas as single-payer health care for all. At the least, they surely believe it undermines trust in Obama, which is enough in itself for these ugly corporate conservatives.

The irony is that these posts are usually easy to spot, both from the scripted and repetitive nature of the comments, and from the use of such words as 'Democrat' instead of 'Democratic' when referring to the American political party or a particular politician.

I was also made aware several years ago that popular and attractive college students were being paid by US marketing firms to go into bars and order a particular brand of vodka or wine cooler in a loud voice. These people were a little too artificial and easy to spot, as well, especially after you've seen three or four of them in an evening practically screaming the brand name at the bartender.