Verizon's no stranger to astroturfing, the practice of faking grassroots opinion to further its causes, with a group it supports handing out iPods to people that complain about their cable company, presumably in an effort to support its entrance into the TV business. More attention is being drawn to the company's efforts now following the receipt by the mayor of a New Jersey town of 200 letters from people saying they wanted more competition in cable television. The volume of letters sparked the mayor's attention, and he noticed they'd all come from the same fax machine, with half of them listing addresses that don't actually exist. Some even used the names of people that had never heard of the campaign, let alone sent in letters. Verizon says its records show just 27 letters being sent to the mayor from the web site it set up, and promises a full investigation -- while at the same time saying cable executives that are "running scared" are behind the allegations. A Verizon spokesman says "something is wrong somewhere", but somehow we don't think he's talking about the company's use of astroturfing.
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