Astroturfing is the practice of masking the sponsors of a message or organization (e.g., political, advertising, religious or public relations) to make it appear as though it originates from and is supported by grassroots participants. It is a practice intended to give the statements or organizations credibility by withholding information about the source's financial connection. The term astroturfing is derived from AstroTurf, a brand of synthetic carpeting designed to resemble natural grass, as a play on the word "grassroots". The implication behind the use of the term is that instead of a "true" or "natural" grassroots effort behind the activity in question, there is a "fake" or "artificial" appearance of support.
In political science, it is defined as the process of seeking electoral victory or legislative relief for grievances by helping political actors find and mobilize a sympathetic public, and is designed to create the image of public consensus where there is none. Astroturfing is the use of fake grassroots efforts that primarily focus on influencing public opinion and typically are funded by corporations and governmental entities to form opinions. On the Internet, astroturfers use software to mask their identity. Sometimes one individual operates through many personas to give the impression of widespread support for their client's agenda. Some studies suggest astroturfing can alter public viewpoints and create enough doubt to inhibit action. In the first systematic study of astroturfing in the United States, Oxford Professor Philip N. Howard argued that the internet was making it much easier for powerful lobbyists and political movements to activate small groups of aggrieved citizens to have an exaggerated importance in public policy debates.
Many countries have laws that prohibit more overt astroturfing practices. In the United States the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) may send cease-and-desist orders or require a fine of $16,000 per day for those that violate its "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising." The FTC's guides were updated in 2009 to address social media and word-of-mouth marketing. According to an article in the Journal of Consumer Policy, the FTC's guides holds advertisers responsible for ensuring bloggers or product endorsers comply with the guides, and any product endorsers with a material connection are required to provide honest reviews.
In the European Union, the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive requires that paid-for editorial content in the media provide a clear disclosure that the content is a sponsored advertisement. Additionally, it prohibits those with a material connection from misleading readers into thinking they are a regular consumer. The United Kingdom has the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations, which prohibits "Falsely representing oneself as a consumer." They allow for up to two years in prison and unlimited fines for breaches. Additionally, the advertising industry in the UK has adopted many voluntary policies, such as the Code of Non-Broadcast Advertising, Sale, Promotion and Direct Marketing. A trade association, the Advertising Standards Authority, investigates complaints of breaches. The policy requires that marketing professionals not mislead their audience, including by omitting a disclosure of their material connection.
In Australia astroturfing is regulated by Section 18 of the Australian Consumer Law, which broadly prohibits "misleading and deceptive conduct." According to the Journal of Consumer Policy, Australia's laws, which were introduced in 1975, are more vague. In most cases, they are enforced through lawsuits from competitors, rather than the regulatory body, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. There is also an International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (ICPEN).
Legal regulations are primarily targeted towards testimonials, endorsements and statements as to the performance or quality of a product. Employees of an organization may be considered acting as customers if their actions are not guided by authority within the company.
In October 2018, after denying that they had paid for people to show up in support of a controversial power plant development project in New Orleans, Entergy was fined five million dollars for using astroturf firm The Hawthorn Group to provide actors to prevent real community members' voices from being counted at city council meetings and show false grassroots support.
In the book Grassroots for Hire: Public Affairs Consultants in American Democracy, Edward Walker defines "astroturfing" as public participation that is perceived as heavily incentivized, as fraudulent (claims are attributed to those who did not make such statements), or as an elite campaign masquerading as a mass movement. Although not all campaigns by professional grassroots lobbying consultants meet this definition, the book finds that the elite-sponsored grassroots campaigns often fail when they are not transparent about their sources of sponsorship and/or fail to develop partnerships with constituencies that have an independent interest in the issue. Walker highlights the case of Working Families for Wal-Mart, in which the campaign's lack of transparency led to its demise.
A study published in the Journal of Business Ethics examined the effects of websites operated by front groups on students. It found that astroturfing was effective at creating uncertainty and lowering trust about claims, thereby changing perceptions that tend to favor the business interests behind the astroturfing effort. The New York Times reported that "consumer" reviews are more effective, because "they purport to be testimonials of real people, even though some are bought and sold just like everything else on the commercial Internet." Some organizations feel that their business is threatened by negative comments, so they may engage in astroturfing to drown them out. Online comments from astroturfing employees can also sway the discussion through the influence of groupthink.
Some astroturfing operatives defend their practice. Regarding "movements that have organized aggressively to exaggerate their sway," author Ryan Sager said that this "isn't cheating. Doing everything in your power to get your people to show up is basic politics." According to a Porter/Novelli executive, "There will be times when the position you advocate, no matter how well framed and supported, will not be accepted by the public simply because you are who you are."
Data mining expert Bing Liu (University of Illinois) estimated that one-third of all consumer reviews on the Internet are fake. According to The New York Times, this has made it hard to tell the difference between "popular sentiment" and "manufactured public opinion." According to an article in the Journal of Business Ethics, astroturfing threatens the legitimacy of genuine grassroots movements. The authors argued that astroturfing that is "purposefully designed to fulfill corporate agendas, manipulate public opinion and harm scientific research represents a serious lapse in ethical conduct." A 2011 report found that often paid posters from competing companies are attacking each other in forums and overwhelming regular participants in the process. George Monbiot said that persona-management software supporting astroturfing "could destroy the Internet as a forum for constructive debate." An article in the Journal of Consumer Policy said that regulators and policy makers needed to be more aggressive about astroturfing. The author said that it undermines the public's ability to inform potential customers of sub-standard products or inappropriate business practices, but also noted that fake reviews were difficult to detect.
Use of one or more front groups is one astroturfing technique. These groups typically present themselves as serving the public interest, while actually working on behalf of a corporate or political sponsor. Front groups may resist legislation and scientific consensus that is damaging to the sponsor's business by emphasizing minority viewpoints, instilling doubt and publishing counterclaims by corporate-sponsored experts. Fake blogs can also be created that appear to be written by consumers, while actually being operated by a commercial or political interest. Some political movements have provided incentives for members of the public to send a letter to the editor at their local paper, often using a copy and paste form letter that is published in dozens of newspapers verbatim.
Another technique is the use of sockpuppets, where a single person creates multiple identities online to give the appearance of grassroots support. Sockpuppets may post positive reviews about a product, attack participants that criticize the organization, or post negative reviews and comments about competitors, under fake identities. Astroturfing businesses may pay staff based on the number of posts they make that are not flagged by moderators. Persona management software may be used so that each paid poster can manage five to seventy convincing online personas without getting them confused.
Pharmaceutical companies may sponsor patient support groups and simultaneously push them to help market their products. Bloggers who receive free products, paid travel or other accommodations may also be considered astroturfing if those gifts are not disclosed to the reader. Analysts could be considered astroturfing, since they often cover their own clients without disclosing their financial connection. To avoid astroturfing, many organizations and press have policies about gifts, accommodations and disclosures.
Persona management software can age accounts and simulate the activity of attending a conference automatically to make it more convincing that they are genuine. At HBGary, employees are given separate thumb drives that contain online accounts for individual identities and visual cues to remind the employee which identity they are using at the time.
Mass letters may be printed on personalized stationery using different typefaces, colors and words to make them appear personal.
According to an article in The New York Times, the Federal Trade Commission rarely enforces its astroturfing laws. However, astroturfing operations are frequently detected if their profile images are recognized or if they are identified through the usage patterns of their accounts. Filippo Menczer's group at Indiana University developed software in 2010 that detects astroturfing on Twitter by recognizing behavioral patterns.
According to an article in the Journal of Consumer Policy, academics disagree on how prolific astroturfing is.
According to Nancy Clark from Precision Communications, grass-roots specialists charge $25 to $75 for each constituent they convince to send a letter to a politician. Paid online commentators in China are paid 50 cents for each online post that is not removed by moderators, leading to the nickname of the "50-cent party." The New York Times reported that a business selling fake online book reviews charged $999 for 50 reviews and made $28,000 a month shortly after opening.
According to the Financial Times, astroturfing is "commonplace" in American politics, but was "revolutionary" in Europe when it was exposed that the European Privacy Association, an anti-privacy "think-tank," was actually sponsored by technology companies.
Although the term "astroturfing" was not yet developed, an early example of the practice was in Act 1, Scene 2 of Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar. In the play, Cassius writes fake letters from "the public" to convince Brutus to assassinate Caesar. In the early 1900s disposable cup vendor Dixie Cups convinced travelers to avoid public drinking cups found in trains and shops through a pamphlet called The Cup Campaigner. The pamphlet warned that public drinking cups could spread disease and did not disclose that the message was commercially motivated. The term "astroturfing" was first coined in 1985 by Texas Democratic Party senator Lloyd Bentsen when he said, "a fellow from Texas can tell the difference between grass roots and AstroTurf... this is generated mail." Bentsen was describing a "mountain of cards and letters" sent to his office to promote insurance industry interests.
In response to the passage of tobacco control legislation in the US, Philip Morris, Burson-Marsteller and other tobacco interests created the National Smokers Alliance (NSA) in 1993. The NSA and other tobacco interests initiated an aggressive public relations campaign from 1994 to 1999 in an effort to exaggerate the appearance of grassroots support for smoker's rights. According to an article in the Journal of Health Communication, the NSA had mixed success at defeating bills that were damaging revenues of tobacco interests.
Email, automated phone calls, form letters, and the Internet made astroturfing more economical and prolific in the late 1990s. In 2001, as Microsoft was defending itself against an antitrust lawsuit, Americans for Technology Leadership (ATL), a group heavily funded by Microsoft, initiated a letter-writing campaign. ATL contacted constituents under the guise of conducting a poll and sent pro-Microsoft consumers form and sample letters to send to involved lawmakers. The effort was designed to make it appear as though there was public support for a sympathetic ruling in the antitrust lawsuit.
In January 2018, YouTube user Isaac Protiva uploaded a video alleging that internet service provider Fidelity Communications was behind an initiative called "Stop City-Funded Internet," based on how some images on the Stop City-Funded Internet website had "Fidelity" in their file names. The campaign appeared to be in response to the city of West Plains expanding their broadband network, and advocated for the end of municipal broadband on the basis that it was too risky. Days later, Fidelity released a letter admitting to sponsoring the campaign.
In 2009–2010, an Indiana University research study developed a software system to detect astroturfing on Twitter due to the sensitivity of the topic in the run up to the 2010 U.S. midterm elections and account suspensions on the social media platform. The study cited a limited number of examples, all promoting conservative policies and candidates.
In 2003, GOPTeamLeader.com offered the site's users "points" that could be redeemed for products if they signed a form letter promoting George Bush and got a local paper to publish it as a letter to the editor. More than 100 newspapers published an identical letter to the editor from the site with different signatures on it. Similar campaigns were used by GeorgeWBush.com, and by MoveOn.org to promote Michael Moore's film Fahrenheit 9/11. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget's "Fix the Debt" campaign advocated to reduce government debt without disclosing that its members were lobbyists or high-ranking employees at corporations that aim to reduce federal spending. It also sent op-eds to various students that were published as-is.
Many organizations in the Tea Party movement are astroturfed, with direct connections to right-wing think tanks and lobbying organizations, and their activities controlled by wealthy supporters or the GOP.
In 2018 Jeff Ballabon, a Republican operative in his mid-50s, set up a website called "Jexodus" claiming to be by "proud Jewish Millennials tired of living in bondage to leftist politics." This website was later cited by Donald Trump as though it were an authentic movement.
The Koch brothers are known to have started a public advocacy group to prevent the development of wind turbines offshore in Massachusetts. The Kennedy family was also involved.
Corporate efforts to mobilize the public against environmental regulation accelerated in the US following the election of president Barack Obama.
In 2014, the Toronto Sun conservative media organization has published an article accusing Russia of using astroturf tactics to drum up anti-fracking sentiment across Europe and the West, supposedly in order to maintain dominance in oil exports through Ukraine.
In Canada, a coalition of oil and gas company executives grouped under the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) also initiated a series of Canadian actions to advocate for the oil and gas industry in Canada through mainstream and social media, and using online campaigning to generate public support for fossil fuel energy projects. As an example of such astroturf movements, the "Canada Action" organization was registered in 2012 by a realtor from Calgary, Alberta, who has said publicly that he financed Canada Action with his own money but has refused to say if the organization has received industry or political funds.
In 2006, two Edelman employees created a blog called "Wal-Marting Across America" about two people traveling to Wal-Marts across the country. The blog gave the appearance of being operated by spontaneous consumers, but was actually operated on behalf of Working Families for Walmart, a group funded by Wal-Mart. In 2007, Ask.com deployed an anti-Google advertising campaign portraying Google as an "information monopoly" that was damaging the Internet. The ad was designed to give the appearance of a popular movement and did not disclose it was funded by a competitor.
In 2010, the Federal Trade Commission settled a complaint with Reverb Communications, who was using interns to post favorable product reviews in Apple's iTunes store for clients. In September 2012, one of the first major identified case of astroturfing in Finland involved criticisms about the cost of a €1.8 billion patient information system, which was defended by fake online identities operated by involved vendors.
In September 2013, New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced a settlement with 19 companies to prevent astroturfing. "'Astroturfing' is the 21st century's version of false advertising, and prosecutors have many tools at their disposal to put an end to it," said Scheiderman. The companies paid $350,000 to settle the matter, but the settlement opened the way for private suits as well. "Every state has some version of the statutes New York used," according to lawyer Kelly H. Kolb. "What the New York attorney general has done is, perhaps, to have given private lawyers a road map to file suit."
An Al Jazeera four part mini-series documented Israel's attempt to promote more friendly, pro-Israel rhetoric to influence the attitudes of British youth, namely through influencing already established political bodies, such as the National Union of Students and the Labour Party, or through the creation of other bodies not directly affiliated with the Israeli administration.
In 2008, an expert on Chinese affairs, Rebecca MacKinnon, estimated the country employed 280,000 in a government-sponsored astroturfing operation to post pro-China propaganda and drown out voices of dissent.
In June 2010, the United States Air Force solicited for "persona management" software that would "enable an operator to exercise a number of different online persons from the same workstation and without fear of being discovered by sophisticated adversaries. Personas must be able to appear to originate in nearly any part of the world and can interact through conventional online services and social media platforms..." The $2.6 million contract was awarded to Ntrepid Corporation for astroturfing software the military would use to spread pro-American propaganda in the Middle East, and disrupt extremist propaganda and recruitment.
The Advancement of Sound Science Center (TASSC), formerly The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition, was an industry-funded lobby group and crisis management vehicle, and was created in 1993 by Phillip Morris and APCO in response to a 1992 United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report which identified secondhand smoke as a "confirmed" human carcinogen. TASSC's stated objectives were to: (1) discredit the EPA report; (2) fight anti-smoking legislation; and (3) pro-actively pass legislation favourable to the tobacco industry.
Philip Morris hired APCO Worldwide, a communications consultancy with expertise in crisis management, handling sensitive political issues, lobbying, media relations, coalition building, opinion research, market entry, corporate social responsibility, and online communication. APCO's designed strategies for TASSC aimed at establishing TASSC as "a credible source for reporters when questioning the validity of scientific studies" and to "Encourage the public to question – from the grassroots up – the validity of scientific studies".Center for Individual Freedom
The Center for Individual Freedom (CFIF) is an Alexandria, Virginia based U.S. nonprofit conservative policy advocacy and astroturfing organization. It was founded in 1998 by former tobacco industry executives who sought to counter government restrictions on smoking.The Center for Individual Freedom has led efforts to defeat efforts to compel "dark money" groups like it from being forced to reveal their donors. It won a big victory in September 2012 when a U.S. appeals court overturned a lower court decision that increased disclosure requirements. Despite this, Mother Jones reported in April 2012 that the Center for Individual Freedom had been given $2.75 million from Crossroads GPS, the conservative non-profit started by Karl Rove. Paul Ryan, an attorney with the Campaign Legal Center (a group in favor of campaign finance regulation), says CFIF's anti-disclosure cases are without merit but adds that challenging disclosure laws is a new attempt to deregulate campaign finance.In the 2010 elections CFIF spent $2.5 million supporting Republican candidates, and in the 2012 elections it spent $1.9 million.An investigation by Gizmodo found that CFIF was intimately involved in the communications industry's astroturfing campaign against net neutrality.European Privacy Association
The European Privacy Association (EPA) is a Brussels-based lobbying group, founded in 2009. Its stated goal is "to enhance data protection and Internet freedom as fundamental principles of democracy."
As of 2013, Karin Riis-Jørgensen is chairwoman of the EPA. Former EP member Pat Cox is among its founders.EU lobbying watchdog Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) has asserted that EPA "is working to represent industry interests in the debate on data protection in Europe" and "to promote industry-friendly legislation" as a front group for the IT industry. It has been called an example of an astroturfing organisation that "disguises as an independent thinktank". EPA's Policy and Scientific Committee director, Paolo Balboni, has denied the astroturfing allegation in a letter to the editor of the Financial Times.In 2013, CEO filed a complaint against EPA because the association had not listed any corporate sponsors in the EU Transparency Register, claiming that it had only ten natural persons as members; EPA then admitted that Microsoft, Google and Yahoo are among its members.
According to EPA, the Transparency Register closed the case in June 2013.
The organisation changed its status in the Transparency Register from "Think-tank" to the "Trade, business & professional associations", because a think-tank is not allowed to have corporate members.Fidelity Communications
Fidelity Communications is a telecommunications company in Missouri, United States which provides residential and business internet, television and phone services.In 2017 Fidelity Communications hired DM Web Dev Group to run an astroturfing campaign to discredit the city run fiber broadband service in West Plains, Missouri through the website stopcityfundedinternet.com.Flog
Flog may refer to:
Fake blog, an astroturfing technique
Flagellation or flogging, beating the human body with special implements such as whips
The Flog, a video blog by Felicia Day
Food blog, a blog dedicated to food; see Glossary of bloggingFront organization
A front organization is any entity set up by and controlled by another organization, such as intelligence agencies, organized crime groups, banned organizations, religious or political groups, advocacy groups, or corporations. Front organizations can act for the parent group without the actions being attributed to the parent group thereby allowing them to hide from public view.
Front organizations that appear to be independent voluntary associations or charitable organizations are called front groups. In the business world, front organizations such as front companies or shell corporations are used to shield the parent company from legal liability. In international relations, a puppet state is a state which acts as a front (or surrogate) for another state.Grassroots
A grassroots movement is one which uses the people in a given district, region, or community as the basis for a political or economic movement. Grassroots movements and organizations use collective action from the local level to effect change at the local, regional, national, or international level. Grassroots movements are associated with bottom-up, rather than top-down decision making, and are sometimes considered more natural or spontaneous than more traditional power structures. Grassroots movements, using self-organization, encourage community members to contribute by taking responsibility and action for their community. Grassroots movements utilize a variety of strategies from fundraising and registering voters, to simply encouraging political conversation. Goals of specific movements vary and change, but the movements are consistent in their focus on increasing mass participation in politics. These political movements may begin as small and at the local level, but grassroots politics as Cornel West contends are necessary in shaping progressive politics as they bring public attention to regional political concerns.The idea of grassroots is often conflated with participatory democracy. The Port Huron Statement, a manifesto seeking a more democratic society, says that to create a more equitable society, "the grass roots of American Society" need to be the basis of civil rights and economic reform movements. The terms can be distinguished in that grassroots often refers to a specific movement or organization, whereas participatory democracy refers to the larger system of governance.Grassroots lobbying
Grassroots lobbying (also indirect lobbying) is lobbying with the intention of reaching the legislature and making a difference in the decision-making process. Grassroots lobbying is an approach that separates itself from direct lobbying through the act of asking the general public to contact legislators and government officials concerning the issue at hand, as opposed to conveying the message to the legislators directly. Companies, associations and citizens are increasingly partaking in grassroots lobbying as an attempt to influence a change in legislation.The unique characteristic of grassroots lobbying, in contrast to other forms of lobbying, is that it involves stimulating the politics of specific communities. This type of lobbying is different from the more commonly known direct lobbying, as it is naturally brought upon by the organization.Guerrilla marketing
Guerrilla marketing is an advertisement strategy to promote products or services on the streets or other public places with little money. This involves getting the attention of the public. Guerrilla marketing is done in public places such as shopping centers, parks or beaches to attract a big audience. It was popularized by Jay Conrad Levinson in the book Guerrilla Marketing, 1984. Traditional advertising media are channels such as print, radio, television and direct mail but as we are moving away from these channels the marketers and advertisers have to find new strategies to get their commercial messages to the consumer.
Guerrilla marketing is an alternative strategy and is about taking the consumer by surprise to make a big impression about the brand (What is Guerrilla Marketing, 2015), this in turn creates buzz about the brand or product being marketed. It is a way of advertising that increases engagement with the product or service, and is designed to create a memorable experience for the consumer. By creating this memorable experience for the consumer, it also increases the likelihood that a consumer, or someone who interacted with the campaign will tell their friends about it and via word of mouth the product or service being advertised reaches a lot more people than initially anticipated, and means it has more of a mass audience.
This style of marketing has the potential to be extremely effective for small businesses to advertise their product or service, especially if they are competing against bigger companies as it is inexpensive and focuses more on reach rather than frequency. For guerrilla campaigns to be successful companies don't need to spend large amounts, they just need to have imagination, energy and time (Bourn, 2009).
Guerrilla marketing is also an effective way companies who do not provide a tangible service can advertise their products through the non traditional channels as long as they have an effective strategy.
As opposed to traditional media Guerrilla marketing cannot be measured by statistics, sales and hits but is measured by profit made. It is designed to cut through clutter of traditional advertising and have no mystery about what is being advertised. The message to consumers will be clear and concise, the business will not diversify the message to the consumer and focus will be maintained. This type of marketing also works on the unconscious mind, as purchases quite often are decided by the unconscious mind. To keep the product or service in the unconscious mind means repetition is needed, so if a buzz is created around a product and it is shared amongst friends it enables repetition. (Bourn, 2009)
Two types of marketing encompassed by guerrilla marketing are viral marketing and buzz marketing.
Unlike typical public marketing campaigns that use billboards, guerrilla marketing involves the application of multiple techniques and practices in order to establish direct contact with the customers. One of the goals of this interaction is to cause an emotional reaction in the clients and the final goal of marketing is to get people to remember brands in a different way than they are used to . The technique involves from flyer distribution in public spaces to creating an operation at major event or festival mostly without directly connecting to the event but using the opportunity. The challenge with any guerrilla marketing campaign is to find the correct place and time to do the operation without getting involved in legal issues.HBGary
HBGary is a subsidiary company of ManTech International, focused on technology security. In the past, two distinct but affiliated firms had carried the HBGary name: HBGary Federal, which sold its products to the US Federal Government, and HBGary, Inc. Its other clients included information assurance companies, computer emergency response teams, and computer forensic investigators. On February 29, 2012, HBGary, Inc. announced it had been acquired by IT services firm ManTech International. At the same time, HBGary Federal was reported to be closed.Holden Karnofsky
Holden Karnofsky is a co-founder and board member of the charity evaluator GiveWell and the executive director of the Open Philanthropy Project, which was originally a collaboration between GiveWell and Good Ventures.Jack N. Gerard
Jack N. Gerard (born Dec. 15, 1957) has been a general authority of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) since April 2018. He previously served for ten years as head of the American Petroleum Institute (API), the petroleum and natural gas industry lobby group in the United States.
Gerard was raised in Mud Lake, Idaho. His father was a salesman of John Deere tractors. He served as a mission for the LDS Church in Sydney, Australia. He later graduated from George Washington University. Following college, he worked on the staffs of George V. Hansen and James A. McClure, who served in the U.S. Congress and Senate respectively, representing Idaho.Gerard for a time ran a lobbying firm with McClure. He then was head of the National Mining Association and then the American Chemistry Council.
In his role as head of API, Gerard fought successfully to allow crude oil exports. He also fought against increased taxes and other measures that would hurt industry profits. Gerard expanded the organization's public outreach efforts to include the AFL-CIO and Congressional Hispanic Caucus, while trimming the number of API's employees and narrowing the scope of API's lobbying priorities. He also led efforts to fund and support citizen rallies in support of API's legislative priorities, drawing accusations of astroturfing from critics after a leaked memo from Gerard to local API organizers was published by Greenpeace.In the 2012 U.S. presidential election, Gerard was a major backer of Mitt Romney's bid for president.Gerard is married to the former Claudette Neff and they are the parents of eight children.In the LDS Church Gerard has held positions as a bishop, stake president, and, from 2010 to 2016, an area seventy. After he became a general authority, he was appointed as the executive director of the LDS Church's Public Affairs Department. In July 2018 he spoke at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Annual Convention, announcing an educational and employment skills joint initiative between the LDS Church and the NAACP.Jexodus
Jexodus is an American astroturfing movement launched in early March 2019 at the Conservative Political Action Conference, 2019 (CPAC). Similar to the "Blexit" astroturfing campaign, Jexodus claims to have been begun by Jewish millennials. The Jexodus website claims to be a grassroots organization, though Israeli media could only find one person associated with the group, former Donald Trump campaign staffer Elizabeth Pipko.Media manipulation
Media manipulation is a series of related techniques in which partisans create an image or argument that favours their particular interests. Such tactics may include the use of logical fallacies, psychological manipulations, outright deception, rhetorical and propaganda techniques, and often involve the suppression of information or points of view by crowding them out, by inducing other people or groups of people to stop listening to certain arguments, or by simply diverting attention elsewhere. In Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes, Jacques Ellul writes that public opinion can only express itself through channels which are provided by the mass media of communication – without which there could be no propaganda.
It is used within public relations, propaganda, marketing, etc. While the objective for each context is quite different, the broad techniques are often similar.
As illustrated below, many of the more modern mass media manipulation methods are types of distraction, on the assumption that the public has a limited attention span.Operation Earnest Voice
Operation Earnest Voice is an astroturfing campaign by the US government. The aim of the initiative is to use sockpuppets to spread pro-American propaganda on social networking sites based outside of the US. The campaign is operated by the United States Military Central Command (CENTCOM), thought to have been directed at jihadists across Pakistan, Afghanistan and other countries the Middle East.According to CENTCOM, the US-based Facebook and Twitter networks are not targeted by the program because US laws prohibit state agencies from spreading propaganda among US citizens as according to the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012. However, according to the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012, dissemination of foreign propaganda to domestic audiences is expressly allowed over the internet including social media networks. Isaac R. Porche, a researcher at the RAND corporation, claims it would not be easy to exclude US audiences when dealing with internet communications.Reputation management
Reputation management refers to the influencing and controlling of an individual's or group's reputation. Originally a public relations term, the growth of the internet and social media, along with reputation management companies, have made search results a core part of an individual's or group's reputation. Online reputation management, sometimes abbreviated as ORM, focuses on the management of product and service search website results. Ethical grey areas include mug shot removal sites, astroturfing customer review sites, censoring negative complaints, and using search engine optimization tactics to influence results.
With extensive developments in this field of public relations, in-sync with the growth of the internet and social media, along with the advent of reputation management companies, the overall out-look of search results has become an integral part of what defines "reputation" and subsequent to all these developments, reputation management now exists under two spheres: online and off-line reputation management.
Online reputation management focuses on the management of product and service search results within the digital space. A variety of electronic markets and online communities like e-Bay, Amazon and Alibaba have ORM systems built in, and using effective control nodes these can minimize the threat and protect systems from possible misuses and abuses by malicious nodes in decentralized overlay networks.Whereas, off-line reputation management refers to the process of managing public perception of a said entity out-side the digital sphere using select clearly defined controls and measures towards a desired result ideally representing what stake-holders think and feel about that entity. Wherein, the most popular controls for off-line reputation management include social responsibility, media visibility, press releases in print media and sponsorship amongst related tools.Shelfari
Shelfari was a social cataloging website for books that merged with GoodReads. Shelfari users build virtual bookshelves of the titles they own or have read, and can rate, review, tag, and discuss their books. Users can also create groups that other members may join, create discussions, and talk about books, or other topics. Recommendations can be sent to friends on the site for what books to read.
Shelfari was launched on October 11, 2006. In February 2007, Amazon invested $1 million in Shelfari, and moved to acquire it a year later in August 2008.In January 2016, the site announced "Shelfari is merging with Goodreads". As of June 2016, the site was decommissioned (all links redirect to Goodreads' website). Despite mention of a merger, users complain that the most important Shelfari features have not been merged (primarily that the comments system doesn't allow detailed discussions of books, and background information on each book's main characters has been discarded).