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Astroturfing is the practice of using deceptive communications to make a corporate or political message appear natural and organic, as if it comes from a very distributed group of individuals or naturally emerging social movements. This term is often used in politics, but also may be used in IT, as those who engage in astroturfing typically use specific types of digital media, like online review sites and social media platforms.
The use of astroturfing in digital venues is actually being pursued by state law-enforcement offices in New York and elsewhere in the United States. Officials are reviewing the practice of creating fake reviews and other astroturfing efforts that may be extremely deceptive to consumers. For example, companies that hire people to post from a variety of IP addresses on sites like Yelp or social media platforms, such as Facebook, can be vulnerable to litigation or legal investigations.
The pursuit of astroturfing efforts seems to be a relatively new phenomenon in the digital world. Businesses should be aware of how this controversy may apply to marketing efforts. While many consider astroturfing unethical, there’s little public awareness about the legal implications of this type of marketing or outreach.