- The Guardian: British army creates team of Facebook warriors
- US military studied how to influence Twitter [and Reddit] users in Darpa-funded research
- Vice: Your Government Wants to Militarize Social Media to Influence Your Beliefs
- CBC News- Canadian government monitors online forums
- New York Times: The Secret Agenda of a Facebook Quiz (Cambridge Analytica)
- NY Times- From a nondescript office building in St. Petersburg, Russia, an army of well-paid “trolls” has tried to wreak havoc all around the Internet — and in real-life American communities.
- The Nation: US Officials Won’t Say if a New Anti–Russian Propaganda Project (shilling on social media) Is Targeting Americans. The newly created Global Engagement Center’s “focus and intent” is foreign audiences, but officials won’t rule out propagandizing Americans and funding American journalists.
- Times of Israel: Israeli government paying bilingual students to spread propaganda online primarily to international communities without having to identify themselves as working for the government. “The [student] union will operate computer rooms for the project…it was decided to establish a permanent structure of activity on the Internet through the students at academic institutions in the country.”
- WashingtonPost: Obama pick for NSA review panel wanted paid, pro-government shills in chat rooms (Thread with source paper.)
- Massive British PR firm caught on video: “We’ve got all sorts of dark arts…The ambition is to drown that negative content and make sure that you have positive content online.” They discuss techniques for managing reputations online and creating/maintaining 3rd-party blogs that seem independent.
- The Guardian: US spy operation to manipulate social media
- Vietnam admits deploying bloggers to support the Communist Party’s policies, operates a network of nearly 1,000 “public opinion shapers”.
- Glenn Greenwald: How Covert Agents Infiltrate the Internet to Manipulate, Deceive, and Destroy Reputations
- Behavioural Science Support for JTRIG’S Effects and Online HUMINT Operations
- USA Today: The co-owner of a major Pentagon propaganda contractor publicly admitted that he was behind a series of websites used in an attempt to discredit two USA TODAY journalists who had reported on the contractor.
- Glenn Greenwald: Hacking Online Polls and Other Ways British Spies Seek to Control the Internet
- Chinese officials flood the Chinese internet with positive social media posts to distract their population
- Pentagon preparing for mass civil breakdown – Social science is being militarised to develop ‘operational tools’ to target peaceful activists and protest movements. “Minerva”-funded social scientists tied to Pentagon counterinsurgency operations are involved in the “study of emotions in stoking or quelling ideologically driven movements,” he said, including how “to counteract grassroots movements.”
- Wired: Clinton Staff and Volunteers Busted for Astroturfing [in 2007]
- Bloomberg: How to Hack an Election [and influence voters with fake social media accounts]
- USA Today: Businesses and organizations may refer to it as a tool for competitive advantage and marketing; but make no mistake, they are using the massive reach of social media and the Internet as a weapon. One U.S. 3-letter special agent said, “You could influence an election with this.”
- Times of Israel – The internet: Israel’s new PR battlefield
- GCHQ’s menu of tools spreads disinformation across Internet- “Effects capabilities” allow analysts to twist truth subtly or spam relentlessly.
- The Guardian: Internet Astroturfing
- BBC News: US plans to ‘fight the net’ revealed
- Israel is paying internet workers to manipulate online content such as Wikipedia (2 minute video)
- Buzzfeed: Documents Show How Russia’s Troll Army Hit America
- NY Times: Effort to Expose Russia’s ‘Troll Army’ Draws Vicious Retaliation
- CENTCOM engages bloggers
- WIRED: Air Force Releases ‘Counter-Blog’ Marching Orders
- Military Report: Secretly ‘Recruit or Hire Bloggers’
- The Guardian: Israel ups the stakes in the propaganda war
- BBC News: China’s Internet spin doctors
- Air Force ordered software to manage army of fake virtual people
- HBGary: Automated social media management
- Huffington Post- Exposing Cyber Shills and Social Media’s Underworld
- Turkey’s Government Forms 6,000-Member Social Media Team
- The Bush and Gore campaigns of 2000 used methods similar to the Chinese government for conducting “guided discussions” in chatrooms designed to influence citizens
- Why Reddit moderators are censoring Glenn Greenwald’s latest news story on shills
SHILLING IN THE PRIVATE SECTOR
- Yahoo News: Last month the FTC issued warnings to celebrities who plugged products on their Instagram accounts without clearly identifying their relationships with brands. The letters were meant to educate the celebrities on posting without violating the organization’s disclosure guidelines.
- PBS Frontline Documentary – Generation Like
- USA Today: Lord & Taylor settles FTC charges over paid Instagram posts
- Wired: Microsoft, through an outside agency, paid Machinima to produce positive videos about the Xbox One game machine, and many of the YouTube stars who accepted the deal failed to properly disclose that they were producing paid, sponsored content, not independent analysis.
- The Verge: Anti-net neutrality spammers are impersonating real people to flood FCC comments
- Vice: Trolls Paid by a Telecom Lobbying Firm Keep Commenting on My Net Neutrality Articles
- In a New York investigation dubbed “Operation Clean Turf,” dentists, lawyers, an ultra-sound clinic, Staten Island bus company US Coachways, a charter bus operator, a teeth-whitening service, a laser hair-removal chain and an adult entertainment club were caught buying fake reviews. The fake review companies posted on sites like Citysearch, Google, Yahoo and Yelp.
- New York Times: When a Company’s Product Is Under Fire, One Option is to Plant a Defender in the Chat Room
- Time: Social Media Manipulation? When “Indie” Bloggers and Businesses Get Cozy
- New York Times: Give Yourself 5 Stars? Online, It Might Cost You
- Chicago Tribune: Nutrition for sale: How Kellogg worked with ‘independent experts’ to tout cereal
- Kim Kardashian was paid to post a selfie on Instagram and Twitter advertising a pharmaceutical product. Sent to 42 million followers on Instagram and 32 million on Twitter, this illegal advertisement did not contain any risk information or language specifying that it was a paid endorsement.
- Warner Brothers fined for paying YouTube celebs to promote game without properly disclosing that the videos were paid endorsements.
- Gamers promote gaming-gambling site on youtube by pretending to hit jackpot without disclosing that they own the site. They tried to retroactively write a disclosure covering their tracks, but were caught.
- “Internet Reputation Management,” founded by three partners in the New York area, recruits bloggers to write about clients on third-party sites, without necessarily disclosing that they’re paid
- Slate: Want to Get Paid For TV Criticism? Shill for DISH.
- Sony viral marketing campaign exposed (2006). The company admits they ran the shady advertising campaign.
- ADWEEK: Marketing on Reddit Is Scary, But These Success Stories Show Big Potential
- BBC news: Amazon targets 1,114 ‘fake reviewers’ in Seattle lawsuit
- New York Times: Lifestyle Lift, a cosmetic surgery company, reached a settlement with the State of New York over its attempts to fake positive consumer reviews on the Web. The company had ordered employees to pretend they were satisfied customers and write glowing reviews of its face-lift procedure on Web sites
- Samsung Electronics Fined for Fake Online Comments [in Taiwan]
- BBC- How online chatbots are already tricking you- Intelligent machines that can pass for humans have long been dreamed of, but as Chris Baraniuk argues, they’re already among us. The ramifications of astroturfing are in fact so serious that the US Department of Defense funded research to detect chatbots.
- Wired: Powered by rapid advances in artificial intelligence, propaganda bots will soon run on genetic algorithms that let their ideas and messaging evolve, based on the resonance and effectiveness of previous messages. We are likely to see versions of these bots deployed on US audiences as part of the 2016 presidential election campaigns.
- BBC: More than four times as many tweets were made by automated accounts in favour of Donald Trump around the first US presidential debate as by those backing Hillary Clinton, a study says.
- Discover Magazine: Researchers Uncover Twitter Bot Army That’s 350,000 Strong
- The Rise of Social Bots
- Forbes: From Tinder Bots To ‘Cuban Twitter’, Welcome To ‘Cognitive Hacking’
- Wired: Pro-Government Twitter Bots Try to Hush Mexican Activists
INFORMATION ABOUT SHILLING ON REDDIT
- Hillary Clinton Super Pac and “strategic research and rapid response team designed to defend Hillary Clinton from baseless attacks” openly admits to shilling on Reddit.
- User proves that several people on an American Bridge/CTR email list posted copy/pastes of talking points to Reddit (emails later released by Wikileaks exactly match comments posted to Reddit in the past)
- User posts video using GoPro, gets video to front page, admits in comments that GoPro sent him free cameras in exchange for advertising. (archive: http://archive.is/ICGrl)
- Top mod of /r/Mechanical_Gifs tries to sell subreddit on ebay for 999.00 dollars.
- How Reddit Got Huge: Tons of Fake Accounts – According to Reddit cofounder Steve Huffman, in the early days the Reddit crew just faked it ‘til they made it.
- Shill posts picture of a dog in a hammock with the brand clearly visible without indicating that it’s an ad in the title of the post, making it an illegal advertisement. Later, he posts a promo code in the comments for 20 percent off his hammocks.
- Redditor who works for a potato mailing company admits to being a shill. He shows off his 27 thousand dollars he made in /r/pics (Screenshot because he deleted his posts.) [Here’s the thread.]
- /r/netsec talks about gaming reddit via sockpuppets and how online discourse is (easily) manipulated.
- Reddit is being gamed by professional shills every day. We investigate how widespread the problem of fake comments and fake votes is in our Reddit For Sale follow-up. [11:48]
- Reddit For Sale: How We Bought The Top Spot For $200 [8:27]
- Some websites use shill accounts to spam their competitor’s articles, causing their competitors to become banned on Reddit.
- Wikileaks: Reddit cofounder consulting for Stratfor to bring in the social media dollars
- Shilling on Reddit is openly admitted to in this Forbes article
- What I learned selling my Reddit accounts
- Reddit automation bot: “Run Up To 100 Threads, Checks For Valid Proxy Access & Also To Check If Banned From Site, Keyword Based Submission Finder & Vote Up/Down Capabilities, Mass upvote or downvote Mode…”
- Reddit Secrets- Buy Reddit upvotes
- Reddit Secrets- Buy pre-aged, established Reddit accounts so your PR team can blend in
- New Scientist: Sock puppet accounts unmasked by the way they write and post
- Researcher’s algorithm weeds out people using multiple online accounts to spread propaganda – Based on word choice, punctuation and context, the method is able to detect whether one person or multiple people are responsible for the samples.
- Fake product reviews may be pervasive, study finds
- When grassroots activism becomes a commodity – UCLA sociologist investigates ‘astroturf’ campaigns
- Content-Driven Detection of Campaigns in Social Media [PDF]
- Shill Confessions and Additional Information (most confessions are unverifiable due to NDA’s and possible trolling.)
- Meme Warfare Center (PDF. Proposal written in 2006)
- WAR.COM: THE INTERNET AND PSYCHOLOGICAL OPERATIONS (Proposal written in 2001 by Angela Maria Lungu – Major, US Army.)
- The Gentleman’s Guide To Forum Spies wiki
- Corporate and governmental manipulation of Wikipedia articles
- TEDx Astroturf and manipulation of media messages (Sharyl Attkisson)
- “Changing the hive mind — How social media manipulation affects everything” by Tim Weninger at TEDxUND
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO ABOUT THIS
I made this thread in the hopes that it could be used as a citation. I still see people all over the web claiming that astroturfing either does not occur in the United States, is a mainly Russian problem, or that it’s some rare thing not to be worried over.
The previous generation became somewhat aware of the manipulation in the media. Imagine how effective it would be if few people knew about it? That is what is happening today. We are being advertised to and subjected to propaganda without being aware of it, which is very dangerous. Not only that, but this is becoming automated. We must educate others about this problem before we are drowned out by bots.
Some of this stuff is automatically removed by Reddit, so you have to link to a thread that was manually approved in order to cite the information. Reddit mods have also been known to blatantly remove links like this (4 examples here), so be sure that your comment or post actually shows up and stays up.
Share this thread where you can or cite small bits of this post in your travels. Click “source” (using reddit enhancement suite) and you will be able to copy/paste the entire hyperlink(s).