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Corporate-Funded Online 'Astroturfing' Is More Advanced and More Automated Than You Might Think

Every month more evidence piles up, suggesting that online comment threads and forums are being hijacked by people who aren’t what they seem to be.

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c. Create “static IP addresses” for each persona, enabling different astroturfers “to look like the same person over time.” It should also allow “organizations that frequent same site/service often to easily switch IP addresses to look like ordinary users as opposed to one organization.”

Software like this has the potential to destroy the internet as a forum for constructive debate. It makes a mockery of online democracy. Comment threads on issues with major commercial implications are already being wrecked by what look like armies of organised trolls – as you can often see on the Guardian’s sites. The internet is a wonderful gift, but it’s also a bonanza for corporate lobbyists, viral marketers and government spin doctors, who can operate in cyberspace without regulation, accountability or fear of detection. So let me repeat the question I’ve put in previous articles, and which has yet to be satisfactorily answered: what should we do to fight these tactics?

George Monbiot is the author Heat: How to Stop the Planet from Burning . Read more of his writings at Monbiot.com. This article originally appeared in the Guardian .

 
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