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.