Or sometimes the net is not what it seems!
The need to protect the internet from 'astroturfing' grows ever more urgent
The tobacco industry does it, the US Air Force clearly wants to ... astroturfing – the use of sophisticated software to drown out real people on web forums – is on the rise. How do we stop it?
A real person using the internet. Unfortunately we can no longer assume what we are reading is written by one of these creatures. Photograph: Jeff Blackler/Rex Features
Every month more evidence piles up, suggesting that online comment threads and forums are being hijacked by people who aren't what they seem.
The anonymity of the web gives companies and governments golden opportunities to run astroturf operations: fake grassroots campaigns that create the impression that large numbers of people are demanding or opposing particular policies. This deception is most likely to occur where the interests of companies or governments come into conflict with the interests of the public. For example, there's a long history of tobacco companies creating astroturf groups to fight attempts to regulate them.
Read more at www.guardian.co.uk
After I wrote about online astroturfing in December, I was contacted by a whistleblower. He was part of a commercial team employed to infest internet forums and comment threads on behalf of corporate clients, promoting their causes and arguing with anyone who opposed them.