Recently, an effort to post all across the web fake comments supporting a key union cause has been discovered. In Internet activist talk, this is called “astroturfing.” The term describes a campaign of fake comments posted on multiple websites where articles are discussing any particular issue about which the “astroturfers” want to have their position known. In this case the issue is the discussion of the woefully misnamed Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) and the “astroturfing” is an effort by union supporters to explain away the dangers this act represents to the American worker. The end result is supposed to be that when regular web users come to a page and see the pro-union message they imagine it to be from a “real” visitor. In truth it is an organized campaign to spam comments sections with a canned comment misleading readers into thinking “real people” support the position being “astroturfed.” (i.e., since astroturf is fake grass, this laying on of a fake “covering” explains the reference)
A website named The Truth About the EFCA, discovered the astroturfing effort in the form of the exact same comments in favor of the EFCA on at least three different sites posted under three different names. The site was alerted to this fact because its own site was one of the astroturfed sites.
On one of its posts discussing the dangers of the EFCA a fake commenter named “Jim” posted a pro-EFCA message. The Administrator of the anti-EFCA website then found the exact comment posted under the name “Buddy M” on the GrandForksHerald.com. Then the same message was also seen posted as “anonymous” on the Wall Street Journal.
This is a perfect example of astroturfing. Spreading the same fake comment all over the place. There’s no telling how many times this exact same canned comment has been posted by union supporters on the web.
But as the folks at the Truth About the EFCA say, “simply repeating the same lines about EFCA aren’t going to win the intellectual battle because Congress and, increasingly, Americans know that EFCA means effectively eliminating secret ballots for working Americans and forcing government into the private negotiation process. Both are bad, and many jobs will be lost.”