Crackdown on Fake Blogs, Astroturf
In the world of p.r. and marketing, "astroturfing" is not a new term. It is the practice of creating a fake grassroots movement, or buzz. Companies will hire "influencers" in specific demographics to spread the word about a product or service, hoping to give it some street cred among consumers that are specifically resistant to traditional advertising.
In the Internet age, companies hire people to either write blogs that are favorable to their products or comment favorably on blogs such as this one. Some folks are hip to it. On several of the entries here on Post I.T., commenters have accused others of being plants from companies, posing as real consumers touting products. The Zune vs. iPod postings were rife with such accusations.
Well, Europe has had enough of the astroturfers.
As part of an overhaul of its consumer laws, the European Union will make it a crime to falsely represent oneself as a consumer on blogs or other online forums, come the beginning of next year, reports the Times of London.
This is good news for Europe, if the law can be enforced without violating online privacy. Now, if only it would catch on here.
For every Microsoft that gets caught trying to fiddle with its Wikipedia entry, probably dozens or hundreds of companies get away with posing as real consumers in blogs. When readers come to blogs such as this looking for real consumer experiences with a product or service, they should not have to parse the language of the comments to try and figure out if that's a real 17-year-old with an mp3 device or some 43-year-old guy hired by the mp3 maker trying to sound like a teenager.
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