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Astroturfing

The practice of disguising marketing campaigns or otherwise sponsored messaging as the unprompted views of genuine community members.

What is astroturfing?

This controversial practice involves trying to achieve credibility and authenticity by making marketing and PR messages appear like they are occurring naturally in a grassroots community.

Astroturfing has a long history as a favored technique of both political groups and private businesses. One notable example includes the tobacco industry's establishment of the fake National Smokers Alliance lobby group.

Another concerns Microsoft’s sponsorship of a pressure group that intended to create an illusion that the company had support during a bitter antitrust lawsuit. More recently, the Kremlin is alleged to have built a vast army of fake online profiles and bots to sow disinformation globally.

Astroturfing became much more widely used with the explosion of the internet. Now, almost any organization can establish a large network of fake online identities with ease — and they can be directed to post whatever content the organization dictates. Advanced “persona management” software can equip each of these identities with their own IP address and confected online history.

Awareness of astroturfing is now widespread, and the reputational risks associated with the practice are high. Many jurisdictions have legislated to crack down on it — and now, several countries require bloggers, social media users and influencers to clearly mark sponsored content with an #ad tag.

Despite this, astroturfing remains rife in the crypto community. The technique has been regularly used to generate interest in ICOs, with Telegram and Discord among the most favored channels. It is thought that there are now dozens of marketing companies dedicated almost entirely to running astroturfing campaigns designed specifically for the crypto industry.

Common signs of astroturfing activities include extremely rapid growth in Telegram and Discord community membership. There are also several tools allowing users to “audit” the authenticity of profiles on Twitter and other social networks.

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