With the FCC prepping to vote on new rules that aim to break up cable companies’ monopolies on set-top boxes, the pay-TV industry is fighting back with an astroturfing campaign that tries to make the case that having more choices in set-top boxes will somehow harm diversity in TV programming. [More]
The Global Energy Balance Network, a supposed anti-obesity organization that was heavily criticized for not only receiving more than $1 million from Coca-Cola but for attempting to downplay the role of sugary drinks in the current obesity epidemic, has vanished from the Earth like a failed new soda product. [More]
Amid accusations that its Global Energy Balance Network was little more than a Coca-Cola-funded shill using real doctors to downplay the role of sugary drinks in the current obesity epidemic, the University of Colorado School of Medicine recently returned a $1 million donation to the beverage biggie. But newly revealed e-mails show the direct influence that Coke bought with this supposed anti-obesity organization. [More]
In the wake of the FCC’s vote to adopt the new net neutrality rule, Americans of every stripe have bombarded their lawmakers with feedback. Some applaud the rule; others condemn the action. And that is all well and good: it’s the American system of democracy at work, exactly as designed.
Once again, the latest survey of the current state of broadband around the globe [PDF] shows that, while improving, the U.S. still lags behind other developed countries, like South Korea, Japan, Switzerland, Latvia, and Romania in average broadband speeds and access to decent Internet. But leave it to the cable industry to try to convince America that everything is A-OK, and to try to do so without mentioning that this message is being brought to you by the cable industry. [More]
Remember when Taiwan started investigating Samsung after a slew of mean comments about HTC started appearing online? Authorities there have decided that yes, Samsung was indeed paying writers to tear its competitor down while also writing glowing things to build Samsung’s phones up in the eyes of online commenters. [More]
New York’s Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman offered up a doozy of an accomplishment yesterday, revealing that 19 companies had agreed to pay fines for writing fake online reviews for their businesses, and will be shelling out more than $350,000 in penalties. And of course, since the practice of churning out false reviews is called “astroturfing,” the year-long investigation run by Schneiderman was called “Operation Clean Turf.” [More]
Writer Mike Murdock published a fantasy novel in 2008 that had a sudden uptick in reviews on Amazon.com a few weeks ago. Why the sudden popularity? Was it reviewed somewhere prominent? Made part of Oprah’s Book Club? Tweeted by Roger Ebert? Not exactly. Murdock also reviews video games, and recently published a very unfavorable review of the new Sega/High Voltage Software Wii game Conduit 2 on Joystiq. A High Voltage employee then sent a link to the book’s Amazon page to co-workers, urging them to read Murdock’s book and “return the favor.” Well, if a one-star review calling the book “below fan-fiction garbage” is a favor.
Kevin Robinson at the blog Chicagoist was curious about a commenter who sounded suspiciously on-message on some recent Walmart posts. Walmart wants to come into Chicago, and Walmart’s opponents are fighting the retailer at the community level to prevent that. In return, a pro-Walmart community group has formed called “Our Community, Your Choice” that argues, “Everyone else but Chatham and the South Side are making the decisions – It’s OUR CHOICE, NOT THEIRS.”
In the net neutrality debate, there are a surprising number of grassroots organizations (well, surprising to me at any rate) that have filed statements against the FCC’s recent draft of rules. Matthew Lasar at Ars Technica just published an interesting article where he looks at some of these groups and tries to figure out whether AT&T is secretly influencing them, or whether they really do think net neutrality will hurt those they represent–frequently minority groups–in the long run.
We’re generally quite critical of companies that try to squelch negative online reviews, astroturf them, or just bribe customers for positive ones. Not only is this behavior bad for consumers, but the experience of one company shows that it’s bad for businesses, too.
Finding a bad place to stay can ruin a trip, or even your entire impression of a city. Lacking personal recommendations, you may turn to online reviews to help you find a place to stay. But how can you tell shill reviews from real ones? Other than an air of general fakeness, AOL Travel tells you what to look for in hotel reviews specifically.
Everyone likes to hate on spammers, but they’re basically the houseflies of the Internet. Far more insidious and damaging are astroturfers and front groups—those corporate-funded, agenda-pushing people who don’t disclose who they’re really working for while they participate in online culture and the media. The Center for Media and Democracy has put together a list of tips to help you identify them from real grassroots movements, while Free Press has created a widget that reveals front groups for five large companies you frequently see on Consumerist.
Over a year ago, we wrote about Lifestyle Lift and its attempts to astroturf a customer review website (while simultaneously suing that website for trademark infringement, naturally). But then they caught the attention of New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s office, and now they’ve agreed to pay $300,000 and will stop publishing fake reviews online.
This story is a little old, but was just brought to our attention this weekend. Elsevier, which is sort of the Death Star of academic publishing, was caught offering $25 Amazon gift cards to professors who gave the book five-star reviews on Amazon.