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Home > Focus > A threat to internet democracy?

A threat to internet democracy?

di Jonathan Hankins [1], 4 Marzo 2011

Last week George Monbiot's blog hosted by the Guardian [2] UK featured an interesting follow on article about the problem of astroturfing, an issue that Mombiot has written about in greater detail on his personal blog site [3] and in his book Heat.

To anyone who is not a jargon fiend, astroturfing [4] is the action of taking fake identities to post comments on blogs in favour of or against political arguments and issues. Monbiot notes from his own experience that when an issue is raised that involves large amounts of money or political power, debate seems to be much more aggressive and attempts to disrupt the development of critical discussion abound. His conclusion (backed up with references) is that large companies, interest groups, publicity companies and governments are using software that has been specifically developed for the purpose to discredit voices that make arguments that they do not want people to hear because they are not in their interest. The type of software involved generates multiple identities for its user so that they can pose as many different people at any one time, each identity with a history, Facebook page etc, looking like a group of disinterested and independent people, but offering arguments that their sponsors wish to promote and discrediting others.

The Guardian article offers evidence that the US Air Force have put out a tender for the production of such software for their own personal use, and a link to a much older article [5] that explains how money passes from big business to interest groups and ends up in online publications of what we could call at most selected truths, as well as describing how industries conduct online propaganda campaigns.

The key to appreciating the gravity of the problem is this, if we believe that the Internet and forum networks could be vehicles for the democratization of information or the decision making process, or maybe that information found may be impartial and less contaminated than that found in more conventional media, then contamination of information due to 'political' infiltration could present a serious problem in terms of the impartiality and reliability of any information found on the web.

An article hosted on Monbiot's blog posted in December of 2010 [6] gives examples of companies that have been discovered operating systems of this type, and also of lectures given by political groups explaining how to go about discrediting opposing ideas and ideologies.

(Photo: Problemi con la Tastiera [7] by Tofom from Flickr)

Mostra/Nascondi i link citati nell'articolo

Link citati nell'articolo:

  1. 1] /schedabiografica/Jonathan Hankins
  2. 2] http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/georgemonbiot/2011/feb/23/need-to-protect-internet-from-astroturfing
  3. 3] http://www.monbiot.com
  4. 4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astroturfing
  5. 5] http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2006/sep/19/ethicalliving.g2?INTCMP=SRCH
  6. 6] http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/libertycentral/2010/dec/13/astroturf-libertarians-internet-democracy?showallcomments=true#comment-fold
  7. 7] http://www.flickr.com/photos/tofom/4018295523
CC Creative Commons - some rights reserved.
cc - photo by Tofom from Flickr




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