Astroturfing image example depicting a piece of astroturf.

Astroturfing

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Updated Aug 16, 2023 at 02:11PM EDT by Zach.

Added Aug 16, 2023 at 08:00AM EDT by sakshi.

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About

Astroturfing is a slang term that uses the name of a synthetic grass product to play on the notion of a "grassroots" movement. The word is used to describe the deceptive practice of hiding the actual, typically wealthy, sponsors of a message, product or organization in an attempt to make its popularity appear to be organic. The term is often used to describe the tactics utilized to falsely exaggerate the popularity of "industry plant" artists, so-called grassroots political movements, product reviews and testimonies, as well as forced memes. Astroturfing is also recognized by academics as a phenomenon that has become easier to enact in the internet age, given the ease with which companies and political parties can forge genuine-looking public support on social media platforms.

Origin

The earliest known use of a reference to AstroTurf as a means of calling out fake public support was in 1985 when Texas Democratic Party senator Lloyd Bentsen said, "A fellow from Texas can tell the difference between grass roots and AstroTurf… this is generated mail." This was in reference to an influx of cards and letters that had been sent to his office to promote the interests of the insurance industry.[1]


Fellow from Texas can tell the difference between grass-roots and Astro Turf. - Lloyd Bentsen AZ QUOTES

Astroturfing on the Internet

Emails, online polls, digital forms, automated calls and anonymous social media accounts have made astroturfing more prolific in the digital age following the 1990s.[2] An early instance of a widespread astroturfing campaign was during Microsoft's 2001 antitrust lawsuit when the company used its influence on Americans for Technology Leadership (ATL) to generate online polls and send pro-Microsoft consumer forms and sample letters to lawmakers, making it appear as though the wider public was sympathetic to the tech company in the anti-trust lawsuit.[3]

On August 17th, 2004, Urban Dictionary[4] user holloway posted a definition for the term that gathered over 1,500 likes in 19 years (seen below).


astroturf Creating the impression of public support by paying people in the public to pretend to be supportive. The false support can take the form of letters to the editor, postings on message boards in response to criticism, and writing to politicians in support of the cause. Astroturfing is the opposite of "grassroots", genuine public support of an issue. Mike, admit you just got caught astroturfing. You're just pimping your own blog. Microsoft didn't have grassroots support, so they created astroturf support. by holloway August 17, 2004 1546 278 FLAG

Spread

The term "astroturf" was often used to describe campaigning practices in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election, as seen in an October 24th, 2016, WikiLeaks post on X (seen below, left),[5] and a November 13th post by X user Paul Joseph Watson (seen below, right).[6]


WikiLeaks @wikileaks Clinton strategy for front group to astroturf progressive youth into working for Clinton (see "Attachments") wikileaks.org/podesta-emails... OBJECTIVE: CONCEPT PAPER Mobilize young voter participation for the 2016 election in support of Hillary Clinton STRATEGY: Use young elected officials and entertainers to build a "grassroots" movement of under 40 voters as a vehicle to migrate support for Bernie into activism for Hillary. OPERATIONAL GOALS: Identify young elected officials (YEOs)across the country to become the face of a new organization that is focused on a progressive future. These young elected officials would promote both the organization, the ideas embraced by it and the need for civic engagement with an immediate focus on involvement in the 2016 election. They would be seen as the faces of a new progressivist movement that combines noble goals with political realities resulting in real progress. The organization would be built around a group of ideas or concepts as opposed to parties or individuals. The ideas should always reinforce the message that the under 40 generation needs to engage politically to shape their own future. Building the New Economy, Creating an Empowerment Society, Transitioning to a Sustainable World, Tearing Down Barriers are all phrases which might be included in the messaging. Support for the Hillary would be included in the messaging but initially as tangential to it, i.e. "if you support these things then there really isn't another choice but her". Over time the messaging would transition more into the actionable item of involvement in the campaign and support for its efforts. The organization should be built around a Ready for Hillary type model: grassroots driven, limited engagement of the principal, both an organizational and small dollar fundraising component, centered on-line and in venues frequented by under 40's-college campuses, with a big emphasis on community colleges, nightclubs, athletic events, etc. The group should be branded separately from the campaign so people who engage with it feel like they created and own it as opposed to feeling swallowed by an organization that defeated them. A distinct name, artwork, website, spokespeople etc would be desired. TACTICS: The program should be launched initially in one state and then expand out. It should be seen as growing and spreading. We want people calling and asking if they can set one up in their state as opposed to forcing the model on them. 3:17 AM - Oct 24, 2016 : 4,791 Reposts 575 Quotes 4,540 Likes Paul Joseph Watson @Prison Planet Nov 13, 2016 Another ad for paid Trump protesters. This is a fake astroturf movement. 1umр роstеrs песиси фон per hour (Palos verdes) We are in need of protesters to help us stop Trump. Time: tomorrow at noon at the Trump Golf course. $35.00 per hour. Expect to be there for at leat 10 hours. Reply with contact information. You will be give a pass code to give to organizers to get your compensation. Dress to impress. We strongly encourage signage. If you cannot email us today, show up at the event wearing red. Contact organizers. You can still qualify for $50.00 compensation. Tyler #fightthepower a 404 60 t 3,506 2,855 ılı

In the late 2010s, the term continued to spread, becoming more well-known online. On August 24th, 2018, X[7] user @Choplogik made a post with the caption, "This week Amazon started creating astroturf accounts that search & reply to tweets criticizing Amazon's working conditions, a normal & regular thing companies do."


On August 13th, 2018, Last Week With John Oliver posted a video about astroturfing to its YouTube[8] channel following a segment explaining the practice appearing on the show, gathering over 10 million views in five years (seen below).



On January 28th, 2022, X[9] user @Spaced_God made a post claiming how the cultural hype around NFTs was seemingly astroturfed, gathering over 30,000 likes in a year (seen below).


In 2023, internet commentators accused makers of the 2023 film Sound of Freedom of astroturfing interest in the movie. For example, X[10] user @JUNlPER made a post on July 15th, 2023 that read, "if you go on the angel studios website they do this thing where you can buy pay it forward tickets for this movie, it’s unreal how good rightwingers have gotten at money laundering and astroturfing," gathering over 20,000 likes in a month (seen below).


Various Examples


"lovely weather outside today" "feels like a psyop" "what?" "I can tell its being astroturfed" "Im just talking about the wea-" "nice try fed" с Sir Tinsley Mortimer @IFNAlphaMale Apr 9, 2022 Hall of fame moment in liberal astroturfing Frederick "Pre-order Patriarchy ... @FredTJoseph Just left the barbershop and everyone was talking about Elizabeth Warren. "Yoooo ya girl bro! That's that heat we need for Trump!" 2:48 PM Feb 20, 2020 Twitter for iPhone 48 When you are getting talked about in the barbershop - you know it's real. . 1 525 10K : اار ... : Club Leftist Tennis @ClubLeftTennis reminder: pickleball is a astroturfed, venture capital- backed parasite on public space. across the country, inclusive and diverse tennis communities are getting smeared as stuffy and conservative so that their courts can be ripped up and replaced with something more profitable. 7:54 PM. Sep 21, 2022 290 Reposts 321 Quotes 3,693 Likes 375 Bookmarks Ben Collins @oneunderscore___ More astroturfed fake African-American pro-Trump accounts. Almost 10,000 retweets in three hours. @CalebPatriotKag LEAVING THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY HAS BEEN ON MY MIND FOR A FEW WEEKS NOW. Not happy with what they've been standing for and it seems like they just want to use Black Folks for their votes... Is there room on the Trump Train? Can I get some retweets and follows? I follow back. #TRUMP 4:37 PM 10/10/20 Twitter Web App 5:53 AM . Oct 11, 2020 SOUNDCLOUD BIOGRAPHY From humble origins in Detroit, raised on a healthy diet of Motown, Jazz, and Early Hip- Hop-Terrel Wallace (aka Tall Black Guy) has been consistently building a massive online following through a steady stream of 5,554 Reposts 442 Quotes 15.1K Likes 283 Bookmarks : MAKE OBVIOUS ASTROTURF POSTS MAKE ANOTHER ACCOUNT TO CALL OUT TO HIT THE FRONT PAGE makeameme.org If we can't make fun of [HARMLESS THING] anymore 59 what CAN we make fun of? H PURITANISM AND TRADITIONALISM ADN STEFANEL CORRUPT INSTITUTIONS + SENSELESS CRUELTY AUTHORITY MAINTAINED BY STRICT SOCIAL ENFORCEMENT ASTROTURFED PROPAGANDA AUTHORED BY CORPORATE THINKTANKS ALEK RAMPANT BIGOTRY THE MILITARY INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX RELIGIOUS FUNDAMENTALISM OPPRESSION

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