AstroTurfing, ‘CyberTurfing’ and other online persuasion campaigns

Mark Leiser

Abstract


AstroTurfing and its online equivalent CyberTurfing not only pose a significant threat to consumers, but democratic discourse. Regulatory measures in place to prevent deceptive marketing do not grasp the nature of the threat. It is argued that people make decisions about consumer purchases by using heuristics - mental shortcuts and other rules of thumbs. When making decisions, consumers and voters are often relying on incomplete and false information spread as part of an AstroTurfing campaign. Digitally mediated platforms are being manipulated by propagators to help spread false messages in order to advance specific agendas. As a result, consumer trust and democratic discourse are both undermined. It is argued that further regulation is required to combat the deceptive practice.

Keywords: Online Persuasion Campaigns; Regulation; Social media; CyberTurfing; AstroTurfing; Commercial speech; Castells; Sunstein; Heuristics; Unfair Commercial Practices Directive; Rationality

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