This piece from the Boston Globe last Friday didn’t draw much attention in the PR blogs, maybe because the topic of astroturf campaigns is old hat with most. But it sure has those who blog on political topics worried, and it has implications for all who use social media.
Thanks to Joe Harper for passing it along.
The Globe article grew from the reporter’s discussion with conservative blogger Erick Erickson, Redstate.com. Seems Erick was able to trace comments from an unknown writer back to a Michigan-based operative with ties to John McCain, a guy not among the favored candidates of Redstate readers.
This passage summarizes the issue:
With big corporations now hiring public relations firms to pay fake bloggers to plant favorable opinions of the businesses online, many political bloggers are concerned that candidates, too, will hire people to pretend to be grass-roots citizens expressing views.
“This is going to happen more and more, and blogs are going to have to be vigilant,” Erickson said in an interview. “I expect there will be commenters jumping in and trying to build negative campaigns to cause scandal for the other side. That’s my fear.”
Saul Anuzis, chairman of the Michigan Republican Party, tells the Globe:
A lot of people like the anonymity (of blogs) so they can say what they want. But I think there is an ethical line crossed when someone is actually being paid to sound like they’re not being paid.
The last thing the blogosphere needs right now is more astroturf campaigns. And the last thing the PR business needs is having those campaigns emanate from our offices.
Sadly, I’m not sure there’s a thing we can do about it aside from exposing the rats. But hell, we’re bloggers. We know how to do that!