I, robot?

23 02 2011

This article in the Guardian  certainly set alarm bells ringing for me. George Monbiot hits the nail on the head when he describes the Internet as “…a bonanza for corporate lobbyists, viral marketers and government spin doctors, who can operate in cyberspace without regulation, accountability or fear of detection.”

For those who haven’t heard of it, astroturfing is the practice of using fake logins to argue the point in favour of a business or government using online comments and forums. PR companies used to have to hire teams of people to login under multiple identities to argue their points; now the software has become sophisticated enough to automatically generate personas with convincing online backstories (including social media profiles with appropriate past behaviours) to do this job for them.

I suppose it was only a matter of time before the web, that great democratiser of opinion, was highjacked in such a way. I just hope that the masses find ways to fight this unwelcome trend before it becomes impossible to distinguish genuine debate from a bunch of keywords typed into an algorithm.

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