Political bloggers must prepare for comment scams

bostonglobe.jpgThis 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 redstate.jpgcomments 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!

4 Responses to Political bloggers must prepare for comment scams

  1. Andy Curran says:

    Ah, yes! The digital variation of the old “Plant shills in the audience” trick!

    What? Politicians employing shady tactics to help their cause? I’m shocked!

  2. It isn’t just political bloggers. I just got a comment today — on a post I wrote back in October about “Studio 60” (any comment on posts older than week is suspicious, in my mind) — offering a flowering review of NBC’s Monday night lineup. Gah!

  3. Bill Sledzik says:

    What scares me is that some “PR firm” somewhere is scouring the blogosphere for posts on which they create anonymous comments on behalf of their clients. A monthly report justifying their bill tells of all the wrongs and injustices they responded to. But as you point out, anything more than a week old is usually not worth worrying about.

    BTW, saw your post about Towson U. bloggers. Glad to see you’ve found Les Potter. He’s more than a good guy, he’s a veteran public relations professional with high ethical standards. He’d never condone astroturf comments. Get to know him if you can. (BTW, he also won’t approve of the “R” rating you’ve placed on your own blog…well deserved, I might add.)

  4. Bill,

    As I type this, I’m in the anteroom of Les’ office waiting for him to finish a conference with one of his students. I certainly don’t use the same language on my blog as I do for class papers, I can assure you!

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