Thursday, October 8, 2015


By: Krystal Thorp

Either I have been living under a rock, or the rest of the world is just as clueless as me about the term astroturfing.  No, I’m not talking about the fake/artificial grass surface used on athletic fields.  I’m referring to the “deceptive tactic of simulating grassroots support for a product, cause, etc., undertaken by people or organizations with an interest in shaping public opinion.” (  In other words, companies are creating fake profiles to promote their business.    

“Persona management” software has been created to help facilitate this marketing deception to a rather large scale.  A single person in real life could be 100 people online.  All of these “people” have names, email addresses, social media sites, etc., giving others the impression that they are in fact real people.  A more in depth write up can found in Robot Wars, by George Monbiot.  

This isn’t happening just online either.  If you’ve picked up a newspaper recently you could look at the opinion letters published.   Any one of those people could be a fake persona created by this software.  Taking it one step further, the Greenwich Labour party used its own employee to pose as a resident to promote its campaign.  However, they were debunked, as discussed in Greenwich Labour on the side of Greenwich Labour.  

It’s kind of obvious why companies want to do this though.   It creates the impression that the company, product, person, etc., is highly supported and/or approved, when in fact it isn’t.  But hey people are making money off it, so who cares, right?  Wrong!  The real-life people affected in this scenario are being misled, tricked, controlled, and manipulated.  Instead of getting a real persons perspective, they are being swayed by a fake persona, controlled by a paid supporter.  If that doesn’t push your buttons, then I don’t know what will.  


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  2. Brittany Oblak

    Hi Krystal.
    Initially, my thought (the surprise of this even being a thing) was the same. After some thinking, though, I came to realize it is basically just corporate "Catfishing", assuming you're familiar with that phrase. People have been doing things like this for years on personal levels, so I guess it really is no surprise that it has transferred to a way for people to profit from it on a business level. It's also not surprising that this software probably came to be developed fairly easily after the invention of software that now basically tracks everything we do as consumers and has individual profiles of us as people based on our buying/spending habits.