If we, as content viewers, don't deal with enough deceit from the information being presented to us already via fake news, now we have a new problem, Astroturfing.
Organizations are evolving into sneakier con artist and we, the public, are taking the blunt of the force of its impact. Our primary line of defense is to educate ourselves on the topic to make spotting the real and fake second nature.
How Can We Define Astroturfing
I can understand how this term may not be something you hear in your everyday or have ever heard used in someone's vernacular so to be clear, let's define it.
According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, astroturfing is "organized activity that is intended to create a false impression of a widespread, spontaneously arising, grassroots movement in support of or in opposition to something (such as political policy) but that is in reality initiated and controlled by a concealed group or organization (such as a corporation)."
In more simple terms, astroturfing is a grassroots movement "mask" that groups such as corporations put on to sway your opinion about a number of given ideas.
In fact, Business Insider did a whole online article titled 10 Fake Grassroots Movements Started By Corporations To Sway Your Opinion, which they highlight well known companies such as Exxon Mobil and Walmart for their foiled attempts at astroturfing.
Unfortunately even companies we know very well and trust have been known to deceive us in an attempt to slip astroturfing in under the radar.
One story highlighted in this article even revealed McDonalds to have partaken in this when the company recruited 1,000 part time employees at $11 an hour to stand in line at the release of the Quarter Pounder in Japan.
The challenge facing us as content readers or observers is that the astroturfing phenomenon is found on a variety of different mediums but most find refuge in the comment sections of blogs and newspaper websites, just begging for our attention.
And now, according to an article in The Guardian "new forums of software enable an organization with the funds and the know-how to conduct astroturfing on a far bigger scale."
All of this meaning we are being targeted in faster, stealthier, larger ways, and with the continuous invention of these forums it's only going to grow from here.
Defending Ourselves Against the Endless Astroturfing War
Due to the fact that these groups or corporations are disguising themselves as grassroots movements to the public it can be often very difficult to avoid astroturfing all together, but there are solutions.
In fact, two Australian PR bloggers, Trevor Cook and Paull Young, have launched an anti-astroturfing campaign, which all sparked from an article on the topic by Katherine Wilson in which she attends a seminar that essentially taught her how to carry out an astroturfing campaign.
You too can look in to groups and organizations you support to find their underlying motives in and effort to call out falsified movements and hold these organizations accountable for their deceit to the public. We're not completely defenseless but it is on us to take the actions necessary to find the truth is all the information we receive.