Astro-turfing: Wrong or Brilliant?

Posted by: Marley McIntosh

We’ve all seen it before — some random Instagram account gains thousands of followers overnight or a tweet gets way more retweets and likes than it deserves. I don’t know about you, but I have always demanded answers and now I think I have found one.

Astro-turfing has become the new thing that companies, celebrities, and even positions have clung onto in order to sell a product or gain a following.  They do this by creating or paying someone to create fake bot accounts.  These fake people then start to promote whatever product or campaign it was designed to.

Devumi is a prominent site where over 200,000 people turn to to amp up their social media presence, including athletes, pastors, and TV stars.  On their website, it gives you different plan options as if you were buying a data plan.  The founder of Devumi swears that they do not sell fake accounts, but I would like to now how else they can guarantee so many new followers so soon.

One Minnesota teenager, Jessica Rychly, fell victim of astro-turfing when she found a fake twitter account with her profile picture promoting Canadian real estate investments and a radio station in Ghana.  This fake twitter account with Jessica’s identity all over it was

retweeting posts with Arabic and Indonesian, which she does not speak.

Jessica is definitely not the only one who has been affected by this.  More than 55,000 of these fake accounts use real peoples information on twitter, including minors.

The New York attorney general has gone above and beyond to get to the bottom of this issue and has recently investigated Devumi and the millions of followers the company sold like hot cakes.

Is Devumi just making smart business decisions and profiting from the booming social media market? Or are they being immoral by creating a sense of false reality?  Either way, I do believe that it is wrong to take someone’s personal information and use it as a fake account, but that’s the risk you take when putting yourself out there for the world to see, right?

In-text photo courtesy of The New York Times

 

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This Article Has 4 Comments
  1. Steve Karandy says:

    I find it kind of interesting that everyone expects social media to be authentic and real and true. Media, almost by its very definition, is a filtered perception of reality. The motto of the USC School of Cinematic Arts is “Reality Ends Here.” Even a documentary is not “real,” it is the filmmakers point of view on a situation, using edits and scene order to take real events and make them a point of view. Social Media does the exact same thing, but yet people get offended when they find out that their favorite personality is authentic. Go figure …

  2. Ani Clifford says:

    I agree completely. Astro-turfing is an odd concept that makes complete sense and provides us with the answers we have been wondering about. I think it is very interesting that there are companies who sell these accounts to companies. I have heard of many instances where people that I know have found out their photo is being used under a different person’s name and having conversations with people he/she doesn’t even know. It really makes you wonder how these companies are getting these photos and if they are simply just pulling them off random people’s social media accounts.

  3. Alli Utti says:

    Thanks for sharing Jessica Rychly’s story. Its crazy to think about all of the stuff that could be on the internet about someone and they have no idea. I think that astro-turfing is very unethical and wrong on so many levels. Social media influencers have to acknowledge whether or not they are being sponsored to post certain content, so why would it be okay for brands to completely lie about their following?

  4. Haley Brown says:

    Wow, that is so interesting. Astro-turfing is scary. I cannot imagine stumbling on a fake account with all of my information. I do wonder how they make these accounts up and what will happen to the business Devumi. I’m assuming if they are creating fake accounts based on other’s information then that’s identity fraud. It’ll definitely be something on my radar from now on. There are bot accounts making fake profiles all the time and just because an account has a large follower count that doesn’t mean all those followers are real.

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