The most notorious cases of astroturfing
For those not familiar with the term, astroturfing is a strategy of manipulation of public opinion is to simulate the spontaneous, popular or mass support for an idea, brand or person.
The most common form of astroturfing is buying fake followers on social networks, but there are many others, such as creating flogs ( “fake blogs” or fake blogs), buying testimonials or reviews by fake customers and publication of false or distorted information in blogs, to name a few.
It is regrettable that these techniques have become popular and are increasingly common in the corporate world. There alarming cases by the marks that appear involved. I find it interesting to make a compilation of some resonant cases and results.
- In late 2006, was released a blog called “Wal-Marting Across America”, in which an American couple, Laura and Jim, recounted his experiences traveling from Las Vegas to Georgia, and free parking in the premises of Wal-Mart they were on their way. The blog soon arouse suspicion, and finally revealed that it was a campaign of Edelman PR, funded by Wal-Mart. The agency apologized for the incident.
- The same year, the company Zipatoni launched a viral campaign to publicize the PSP of Sony . To this end, they created a fake blog, in which a teenager named Charlie course spread hip hop videos and told his cousin Pete wanted a PSP (PlayStation Portable) for Christmas. The domain was registered by the company Zipatoni, which made the ruse was discovered easily. As a result, Sony had to make a public apology.
- The popular search engine Ask.com by the agency Profero began in 2007 in England, astroturfing campaign against Google called “Information revolution”, which through a website and banners was questioned that 75% of people accessed information from a single source.
- In 2008, it was discovered that McDonald’s in Japan had paid about 1,000 people that they should row in front of their premises the day of the launch of a hamburger. The company acknowledged the fact, but excused himself saying he had been an action to test product quality and attention.
- In early 2013, Movistar Spain suffered a crisis in social networks for the dismissal of an employee. Telefónica employees denounced the dismissal as unfair, and began an online campaign against the company, which took effect mainly on Twitter, where the hashtag trending topic be reached. In response, Twitter appeared on several accounts on behalf of the company and attacking the employee. Several signs showed that those accounts were false, as the inconsistency of personal data, dates of creation, the name of the application from which the tweets ( “EnvioMensajes”) were sent and that spontaneously used the same hashtags without that mediase relationship between them.Several blogs reported these indicators and denounced the action.
- In September 2013 the Attorney General of New York fined for $ 350,000 to 19 companies for publishing false reviews on websites like Yelp, Google Local and CitySearch. Reportedly, the reviews were written by writers located mostly in the Philippines, Bangladesh and eastern Europe, who were contacted by freelance work platforms and were paid sums on the order of $ 1 per publication.
- More recently, Samsung was fined in Taiwan by spreading false comments and reviews designed to advertise their products and denigrate the competition. The fine set by the Fair Trade Commission of Taiwan is $ 340,000. According to the ruling, Samsung had hired a company called Peng Thai Consultants for the task.
The fact that all these actions were discovered and publicly reported, resulting image crisis for the companies involved, should be a wake-up call to not engage in these practices.