FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

"Astroturfing": The New Political Spam

Do the "letters to the editor" in your hometown newspaper ever sound alike, especially when the subject is the Presidential election? If so, the paper may have been "astroturfed." That's the new phenomenon of supporters of a particular candidate essentially spamming editorial desks with letters either praising their guy or trashing the other guy. Apparently, supporters are copying canned letters off of candidates' websites and mailing them en masse under their names. Both Bush and Kerry supporters are doing it, and although both campaigns disavow use of the tactic, both provide tools to make astroturfing as easy as possible.

Like negative campaign ads, astroturfing is one more example of how elections are being dumbed down. We won't know how effective they'll be until after the election. And if they do work, expect to see lots of them in the future.