Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Anti-Astroturfing Wiki

Seth Godin has pointed out a new Anti-Astroturfing Wiki, for exposing those who are creating fake grassroots efforts by actions like coordinating letters to the editor or blog comment posts which don't mention the coordinating body--a practice engaged in by both advocates for and against net neutrality regulations.

The current Wikipedia definition: "In American politics and advertising, the term astroturfing describes formal public relations projects which deliberately seek to engineer the impression of spontaneous, grassroots behavior. The goal is the appearance of independent public reaction to a politician, political group, product, service, event, or similar entities by centrally orchestrating the behavior of many diverse and geographically distributed individuals."

The Anti-Astroturfing Wiki and campaign has been set up as part of TheNewPR Wiki by Paull Young and Trevor Cook in response to the PR Institute of Australia's promotion of a "how-to" seminar on astroturfing even though the practice violates the PRIA Code of Ethics. Young has issued an anti-astroturfing statement:

We oppose the practice of astroturfing, defined above, in any form. The practice should never be a part of a public relations campaign as it is anti-democratic, unethical, immoral and often illegal.

We will attempt to raise awareness of this practice, expose it for what it is, and encourage our fellow communicators to join us in opposition.

We call for all professional communication bodies to strongly, publicly and actively oppose astroturfing; alongside PR agencies, individual practitioners and bloggers.
I endorse this, along with the InOpinion list exposing astroturfing which I posted about back in May. (For those who want to deny that providing prewritten letters on a website without mentioning the name of the organizing group supplying them is astroturfing, I recommend this rebuttal from the InOpinion blog.)

I wrote about an Arizona astroturfing effort by beverage distributors to stop direct wine shipments here. The fact that these astroturfers weren't really concerned about underage purchases of wine by mail was demonstrated by their agreement to a compromise based on the size of the winery--their principle was making sure that they remained in the middle for most wine purchases, not whether or not underage drinking occurs.

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