How could there possibly be so many supporters of such controversial issues such as promoting tobacco use or praising your undeniably oppressive government?
Astroturfing is a PR, political or marketing campaign that has been created to promote or glorify an organization and appear as though it is garnering a lot of support. Plot twist: the campaigns are planned by these organizations, but have masked themselves as everyday individuals pioneering a strong grassroots campaign. The name comes from the fact that astroturf is synthetic grass made to look like real grass. These are synthetic campaigns, made to look real.
It's easy to hide behind a curtain of anonymity on the Internet with little threat of being detected. Astroturfing is a well thought out plan and even has special software called Persona Management Software that makes it easy to fool the common person. These Persona Management Softwares create individual personas online that look like supporters of the campaign. This software can generate email address, IP numbers, social media accounts and more to make this "persona" a well-rounded and person and supporter. They even go so far as to blog and post online and varying times so it doesn't look like the person just came out of nowhere.
Let's consider the ethics of astroturfing. While it is not illegal to do such things, it can be considered unethical. For simple marketing campaigns for a product, it may be a big deal for some consumers as they will feel they've been lied to or duped by the company which can result in a loss of loyalty. This may not be important to most people though because it is what we expect from typical advertisers. When it comes to political, corporate or government campaigns though, it gets messy. Rallying support for organizations who most likely do more harm than good, spam the Internet with fake profiles or pay people to participate or recruit others to act as concerned citizens is completely unethical. Organizations should not fabricate or distort a real public concern for their own benefit. Organizations should be very transparent with the public about what they are doing or what someone else is doing on behalf of the organization. All participants should be open and honest in all of their communications with the public or anything that is publicly viewable. Anything that is sponsored or paid for by an organization should be recognized in the post. Many social media bloggers and YouTube personalities are given free items to review or use and most often they will let you know that. Using a simple abbreviated such as "ps" (paid sponsoring) or <ADV> "advertisement" lets viewers know these things. When it comes to larger corporations and governments, you have to be cautious and look into these "personas" for yourself. Even though they are well crafted, with a little insight you can usually tell when it's just a robot.
This is an announcement from the National Smokers Alliance, which is a "grassroots" campaign that was established by a tobacco company making it seem as though many people had banned together to 'Resist Prohibition.' The NSA was made up of the tobacco company officials, employers and people who were paid to pretend that they were supporters of this movement.