'Astroturfing' plain and simply should be punished under the law. The whole motivation behind 'astroturfing' is to mislead and deceive. Huge corporations are using their sophisticated software to be able to control the conversation in their own favor.
For instance, according to an article on The Guardian, tobacco companies have a long history of 'astroturfing', in which they have secretly fought opposition to smoking regulations. This just is not right at all. The purpose of the Internet is to be able to hear and see so many opinions without needing to know whom they came from, but with 'astroturfing' these companies have turned a free flowing conversation into a one way lecture.
But, because of the anonymity associated with the Internet, no one has any clue who is just expressing an, 'honest to God', opinion and who is just simply doing their job to persuade public opinion. Because of this reason alone, I firmly believe that 'astroturfing' should be a punishable offense.
These huge corporations already have enormous amounts of power and money, which they use, in order to control the conversation in their favor. Now these corporations are stepping on the little amount power and persuasion that normal citizens have, a voice. Because these companies create fake 'grassroots' organizations, they take away from the real 'grassroots' associations. For instance, one comment on a forum that is motivated by 'astroturfing' will be sure to cancel out at least one comment motivated by personal ideals and opinions, which is bull.
It's just simply not fair for these big companies to take over the realms of conversation for basic citizens, in which the motivation for a comment can't really be determined.
In one case, mentioned in the reading, a former 'astroturfing' soldier recalled the 70 personas he used in order to avoid detection of the 'astroturfing' and in order to create a facade of widespread corporate support.
Some of the software being used by these companies will literally create a completely virtual person, including emails, websites and social media. This type of software makes it almost impossible to be able to know who is 'real' and who is 'fake', which is taking away from the Internet's credibility as a device for democracy and conversation.
At the end of the day, these 'astroturfing' companies need to be held accountable for their hand in the impersonation of people who were created virtually. These campaigns offer nothing constructive to the free-flowing conversation but rather they diminish the credibility of an opinion library.