In last year or so, there were intensified Anti-Astroturfing campaigns related to online environment. The term Astroturfing originates from the artificial grass brand AstroTurf, and it refers to fake grassroots campaigns related to political and marketing/PR issues.
Here are some Astroturfing examples and case studies.
Recent issues related to Astroturfing activities can be found in US automobile industry (Led by Detroitâ€™s Big Three and Toyota Motor Corp., the industry is launching print and radio ads, warning consumers that fuel regulations under consideration by the U.S. Senate would lead to higher vehicle prices and smaller and less safe vehicles).
False identities could face criminal prosecution under new rules in Europe
From 2008, in UK and then in the rest of EU, there will be a place for the legal action against ‘parties’ who are acting against the consumer interests. “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”, it is said on the Washington Post blog. The original article is from Times of London, and it refers to a Directive on Unfair Commercial Practices from Council of the European Union.
A Directive is in general devoted to these issues:
– Including in an advertisement a direct exhortation to children to buy advertised products or to persuade their parents or other adults to buy advertised products for them;
– Claiming that a product has been approved, endorsed or authorized by a public or private body when it has not;
– Falsely stating that the product will only be available for a very limited time, or that it will only be available on particular terms for a very limited time, in order to elicit an immediate decision and deprive consumers of sufficient opportunity or time to make an informed choice;
– Promoting a product similar to a product made by a particular manufacturer in such a manner as deliberately to mislead the consumer into believing that the product is made by that same manufacturer when it is not;
– Falsely claiming or creating the impression that the trader is not acting for purposes relating to his trade, business, craft or profession, or falsely representing oneself as a consumer;
– Creating the false impression that after-sales service in relation to the product is available in a Member State other than the one in which the product is sold;
– Requiring a consumer who wishes to claim on an insurance policy to produce documents which could not reasonably be considered relevant as to whether the claim was valid, or systematically failing to reply to related correspondence;
– Creating the false impression that the consumer has won, is to win or will on doing a particular act win a prize, when in fact either there is no prize or taking any action in relation to claiming the prize is subject to the consumer paying money or incurring a cost;
How to identify fake activism and and false identities on the Web
– The attack on a Social Media “influencers”
To take the legal actions against the fake blogs; online consumer reviews posted by hotels, restaurants, online shops themselves(…); there is need for a vast of Web evaluation knowledge, specially when there are an activities which glorify those “PR tactics”. In addition, the mechanisms how to identify who is faking what and where, should be very precisely defined, and placed in very transparent procedures.
The main issue regarding the establishment of adequate legal actions against of unfair commercial practice, is in focus of actual and future Reputation Systems. For example, it would be very difficult to explicitly determine what is a real book review in Amazon.com, or objective experience in some hotel through TripAdvisor.com.
It would be interesting to see how to describe the activities relating to Search Engine Reputation Management (SERM), or is it legal to put down negative search results below the first 10 or 20 search results, about the target organization. It is obvious that SERM activities relays upon the mass postings on the Web sites/blogs with good Google PR, to achieve good ratings on specific keyphrases on Google.
The issues represented above have to create an urge for the creation of quality Reputation Systems, because there is a lot of space for the improvements in this field.