Certain online activities give off a rank smell. I’ll admit I was tipped off by an NDP supporter on these. The investigations are my own.
I reported on my blog last week about what appeared to be a Liberal supporter who was acting in a way that reflected badly on the party (see You’ve gotta lock that down). Case closed, right? Wrong. I was then made aware of another tweet making the rounds. With very little variation, mostly on an accompanying URL, the tweet looks like this…
Have you seen this yet? ONDP mislead students. $1B promise to CFS not included in platform costing.
That tweet was issued 1,810 times between 11:50am on September 26 and 7:20am today; that’s an average of 41 times/hour over a 43.5 hour span. That’s not all. Those 1,810 tweets were issued by 36 accounts:
- 22 accounts issued the tweet 1-2 times
- 5 accounts issued the tweet 43-112 times
- 5 accounts issued the tweet 134-137 times
- 4 accounts issued the tweet 168-176 times
- 2 of the accounts have been suspended
If it looks like a coordinated spam campaign…
UPDATE 3:15pm: I did a media interview about this post and during the interview used the word “astroturfing”. I realized then that I hadn’t used the word in this post. In case you’re unfamiliar with the term, I’ve copied the first two paragraphs of the Astroturfing article on Wikipedia.
Astroturfing is a form of advocacy in support of a political, organizational, or corporate agenda, designed to give the appearance of a “grassroots” movement. The goal of such campaigns is to disguise the efforts of a political and/or commercial entity as an independent public reaction to some political entity–a politician, political group, product, service or event. The term is a derivation of AstroTurf, a brand of synthetic carpeting designed to look like natural grass.
Astroturfers attempt to manipulate public opinion by both overt (“outreach”, “awareness”, etc.) and covert (disinformation) means. Astroturfing may be undertaken by an individual promoting a personal agenda, or highly organized professional groups with money from large corporations, unions, non-profits, or activist organizations. Very often, the efforts are conducted by political consultants who also specialize in opposition research. Beneficiaries are not “grass root” campaigners but distant organizations that orchestrate such campaigns.