Tech news sites seem a little too gleeful in reporting the media war between Facebook and Google. CNET reports that that fight got a lot dirtier when Facebook hired a PR company to spread naughty rumors about Google.
In the trade, we call this “astroturfing.” Astroturf is a fake plastic grass, from which this practice gets its name. A swelling tide of public opinion is called a grassroots movement. So astroturf, then, is a fake grassroots campaign, made to look like genuine opinion but actually it’s a paid advertisement. You have to start wondering about that comment on Slashdot, that story submitted to Digg, or that tweet from a follower recommending some product – are they really who they say they are?
In a three-part series, a tech blogger explains just how much of what we read online is astroturf. It’s a shocking revelation when you consider just how much business is going on out there. The next time you’re on Facebook and you have a friend there complaining about Google, consider that they just might be part of a “whisper campaign.” And don’t be naive enough to think that Google doesn’t probably do the same thing back!