from the shocking dept
While we all know that the internet is a lawless place where you will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy, there is still an etiquette. You should always back-link to stories you're commenting upon, rule #34 is always assumed, pics or it didn't happen, and thou shalt not engage in astroturfing or your cause will be subjected to discredit and laughter. Astroturfing is the practice of faking a popular response by falsifying that response through anonymous internet comments, stories, etc. It is typically used by dastardly, horrible organizations with no thought for accuracy, civility, or common decency.
You know, like cable news organizations, which I remind you once again are awful organizations that you should never patronize. One of those cable news cartels, Fox News, was recently the subject of a new book by NPR's David Folkenflik who details Roger Ailes' institutionalized program of internet astroturfing.
On the blogs, the fight was particularly fierce. Fox PR staffers were expected to counter not just negative and even neutral blog postings but the anti-Fox comments beneath them. One former staffer recalled using twenty different aliases to post pro-Fox rants. Another had one hundred. Several employees had to acquire a cell phone thumb drive to provide a wireless broadband connection that could not be traced back to a Fox News or News Corp account. Another used an AOL dial-up connection, even in the age of widespread broadband access, on the rationale it would be harder to pinpoint its origins. Old laptops were distributed for these cyber operations. Even blogs with minor followings were reviewed to ensure no claim went unchecked.The book goes on to state that it is unclear if these practices are still currently in place, but perhaps our own comments section will give us a clue. But, see, that's the really stupid part of these kinds of astroturfing campaigns. Think about it logically. First, anyone engaging in this kind of uncouth behavior had better learn quickly that they're more likely to get caught than get away with it. And, thanks to the Streisand Effect, such as the fact that now blogs like Gawker are propelling this story into the headlines, it's going to make the astroturfing organization look bad. But the negative reaction doesn't end there.
As I mentioned, it's overwhelmingly likely that in the comments of this very piece, someone is going to come out and defend Fox News to some degree. The really damning effect of being caught astroturfing is that comments like what might appear below are no longer taken seriously by anyone. There may be very real and very earnest commentors that want to stick up for Fox, but they will find zero purchase because the wider public is going to assume that there's a real chance the comment could part of the astroturfing campaign. Bingo, Fox has now nullified their own real support. Way to go, guys!