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#1 of 86 Old 04-27-2015, 11:07 AM - Thread Starter
 
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astro-turf...please explain

Would someone humour me and tell me what this terms means in terms of the current vaccine debate? I have seen this term several times, usually to describe pro-vax/skeptic sites, but I have no idea what it means.

TIA!

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#2 of 86 Old 04-27-2015, 11:28 AM
 
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Here is a link to Sharyl Attkisson's TEDx talk on astroturfing:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-bYA...ature=youtu.be

It is basically fake grassroots movements funded by political, corporate, or other special interests that manipulate and distort media messages.

A very effective corporate PR strategy.

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#3 of 86 Old 04-27-2015, 12:42 PM
 
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Here's an example that has been in the news a lot (not vaccine-related by same idea):

There is a front group called Grocery Manufacturers Association for processed food companies and GMO biotech companies like Monsanto. They have been funding and doing the confusion campaigns to get people to vote against GMO labeling. They do things like threaten to sue the state with the labeling bill, tv adds telling people their food costs will rise, have 'experts' assert GMOs are safe, etc.

Same thing is happening right now with vaxes. They have the same people (i.e., Offit) publish the same talking points about how the science is settled, and attack anyone who dissents with and/or blocks them if they don't hold the party line.

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#4 of 86 Old 04-27-2015, 01:30 PM
 
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Years ago, there was some of this going on w/ the breastfeeding & formula "debate" too. I think the website was something like, "moms feeding freedom," or something like that.

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#5 of 86 Old 04-27-2015, 01:39 PM
 
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For the most part it's seen as a version of an ad hominem to accuse people of astroturfing-- like Skeptical Raptor's "Shill Gambit" -- and its especially ridiculous when you're accusing a well known public figure like Offit of astroturfing.

By true definition, astroturfers are unknown persons or bots controlling multiple false identities. It's basically the exact opposite of an actual person like Paul Offit or Dorit Reiss giving their own actual opinion during interviews and through published articles.

It's a really tiresome accusation, especially when it comes immediately after a person shows any hint of support for vaccination in an online conversation.

Sheryl Atkisson isn't doing herself any favors by classifying all of her critics as astroturfers.
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#6 of 86 Old 04-27-2015, 01:46 PM
 
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I think you are confused.

Multiple false identities are sock puppets.

Astroturfing is pretending to be a grassroots led group supporting something when in fact having ties to the industry it supports.
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#7 of 86 Old 04-27-2015, 01:54 PM
 
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Either way, it does not really apply to people who hold prominent positions as experts on a topic, like Offit. And in order to achieve the broad appearance of grassroots support when there is none, wouldn't it require sock puppets (if it was an online campaign)?

Last edited by ss834; 04-27-2015 at 05:14 PM. Reason: Removed the quotes from the word experts, because Big Pharma made me do it.
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#8 of 86 Old 04-27-2015, 01:54 PM
 
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An example:

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/...ts-fundraising

Here is what ACSH claims it does:

Quote:
ACSH protects consumer freedom from a variety of unscientifically based activist organizations—such as the Natural Resources Defense Council, Center for Science in the Public Interest, and Environmental Working Group—that use 'junk science' and hyperbole about risk to promote fears about our food, pharmaceuticals and chemicals, and other environmental and lifestyle factors,"...
Here's who donates to ACSH:

Quote:
ACSH donors in the second half of 2012 included Chevron ($18,500), Coca-Cola ($50,000), the Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation ($15,000), Dr. Pepper/Snapple ($5,000), Bayer Cropscience ($30,000), Procter and Gamble ($6,000), agribusiness giant Syngenta ($22,500), 3M ($30,000), McDonald's ($30,000), and tobacco conglomerate Altria ($25,000). Among the corporations and foundations that ACSH has pursued for financial support since July 2012 are Pepsi, Monsanto, British American Tobacco, DowAgro, ExxonMobil Foundation, Phillip Morris International, Reynolds American, the Koch family-controlled Claude R. Lambe Foundation, the Dow-linked Gerstacker Foundation, the Bradley Foundation, and the Searle Freedom Trust.
Paul Offit is on the board of trustees.
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#9 of 86 Old 04-27-2015, 01:55 PM
 
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I think you are confused.

Multiple false identities are sock puppets.

Astroturfing is pretending to be a grassroots led group supporting something when in fact having ties to the industry it supports.
One such astroturf organization would be Voices For Vaccines.

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#10 of 86 Old 04-27-2015, 02:07 PM
 
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There are environmental groups in Louisiana that receive grants and funding from major corporate donors (big oil, etc). These donors don't control the operations of the organizations if their grants/donations are unrestricted. Moreover, these companies often donate so that they can have their logos published in association with whatever good works the organizations are trying to do. That is very common. Having their logos posted on big banners at fundraisers and events is the extent of advertising for a specific industry, and it's open to any corporate/individual donor who makes a donation.

If the donations are disclosed and come from multiple, diverse sectors of industry, then how is it astroturfing? If board members and their affiliations are publicly disclosed, where is the deception?

"Having ties" to industry isn't unique among nonprofits.
In order to be a false campaign it has to be paid for and controlled by the industry, and have no true grassroots support. It also sounds like this connection would be intentionally concealed.
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#11 of 86 Old 04-27-2015, 02:10 PM
 
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And in order to achieve the broad appearance of grassroots support when there is none, wouldn't it require sock puppets (if it was an online campaign)?
You are right that sock puppets are sometimes used in online campaigns to make it look like there is more support.

Quote:
Twitter and blogging have given a voice to millions and allowed genuine opposition movements to take their case to the masses. Censorship of these movements has not always proved effective, with only authoritarian governments possessing the means and the will to implement it. For big business and less repressive governments, the alternative of simply crowding out your opposition online must seem a far more attractive prospect.
http://www.theguardian.com/commentis...s-astroturfing

There are more examples of astroturfing here:

http://www.corporatewatch.org/magazi...e-astroturfing
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To overcome these dangers, most astroturfing now takes place on the forums and comment sections of blogs and newspaper websites

Hmmmm...wonder if we have any astroturfers here.


So these pro-vax blogs and articles I have been seeing lately that continuously use the phrase "anti-vax," which is clearly inappropriate in the way they are using it, and spread misinformation, those authors are probably more likely astroturfers rather than imbeciles, like I originally thought?
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Originally Posted by SilverMoon010 View Post
Hmmmm...wonder if we have any astroturfers here.


So these pro-vax blogs and articles I have been seeing lately that continuously use the phrase "anti-vax," which is clearly inappropriate in the way they are using it, and spread misinformation, those authors are probably more likely astroturfers rather than imbeciles, like I originally thought?
I think imbeciles are probably still more abundant.
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#14 of 86 Old 04-27-2015, 02:35 PM
 
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This is all very interesting. Thanks for starting this thread @kathymuggle .

I knew companies paid people and sent them in to forums, etc., to start arguments amongst others and speak against controversial topics and stir up trouble to support particular topics, but now looking into astroturfing, I didn't know it was to the extent that it is.
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#15 of 86 Old 04-27-2015, 03:01 PM
 
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Originally Posted by SilverMoon010 View Post
Hmmmm...wonder if we have any astroturfers here.


So these pro-vax blogs and articles I have been seeing lately that continuously use the phrase "anti-vax," which is clearly inappropriate in the way they are using it, and spread misinformation, those authors are probably more likely astroturfers rather than imbeciles, like I originally thought?
I think imbeciles are probably still more abundant.
It doesn't seem to be that either are in short supply. Trying to differentiate between the two could be difficult at times since both tend to use inflammatory terms.
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#16 of 86 Old 04-27-2015, 03:35 PM
 
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I have no problem believing that there's astroturfing. In other words, PR firms pay employees to manipulate online conversations. That's a fact, and I'll be surprised if it's not happening in the online vaccine wars.

I do have a problem with the baseless accusations and the witch hunts to rat these people out. For example, there is ZERO evidence that Dorit Reiss is making money from her posts. AoA tried to claim otherwise but really only ended up showing COIs with her employer. (My theory is that she's simply as obsessed with this issue as I am ) Also, I appreciate Sharyl Attkison's viral video on how to recognize paid trolls, but I do not appreciate her naming names without verifiable proof.

And honestly, who cares if these people are paid or not? Either way, you're going to see people making threats, insults, and demands to take your rights away. We have a good enough argument for vaccine choice that we don't have to substitute it with ad hominem nonsense.
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#17 of 86 Old 04-28-2015, 06:33 AM
 
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Originally Posted by SilverMoon010 View Post
Hmmmm...wonder if we have any astroturfers here.

So these pro-vax blogs and articles I have been seeing lately that continuously use the phrase "anti-vax," which is clearly inappropriate in the way they are using it, and spread misinformation, those authors are probably more likely astroturfers rather than imbeciles, like I originally thought?
I don't think they're mostly astroturfers or imbeciles, though some may be. Most people I have encountered in real life and online, whether smart or dumb, genuinely motivated or pharma-financed, would use the term "anti-vax" as shorthand to describe most non-pro-vax views. Many simply haven't thought about how it might be inappropriate. Others have thought about it and genuinely disagree with you (and me) that it's inappropriate.

I once encountered speculation in another forum that I might be a pharma shill, which was just completely infuriating and ridiculous. There probably are such astroturfers in some forums, but throwing around the accusation without evidence just suggests that the person doing the accusing can't understand how anyone could genuinely disagree with them and has to indulge a fantasy that such people are being paid.(I'm not talking about you here, I'm talking about the person who accused me of this elsewhere.)

That said, if anyone does know of anyone who wants to start paying me for my posts here, let me know. Getting paid to tell people on the internet that they're wrong is pretty much my fantasy job.
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#18 of 86 Old 04-28-2015, 06:44 AM
 
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Years ago, even 20, the format for discussion, for news, for information, etc., was ENTIRELY different than our landscape today.

Think WWII. If the war had been waged in our time period, think of how propaganda would have been made more effective..more widespread..

It would take place in social media, forums, online sources and cable news outlets. While there are many "real" folks entering into these discussions, the widespread sweeping of all media forms with hate speech against "anti vaxers", along with much false information about our "motives" (which are personal and kept for our own families, not about legislating folks OUT of vaccines) the big push comes down from those with a financial agenda, and their hired minions-bots and warm blooded. (minions is a joke)

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#19 of 86 Old 04-28-2015, 06:46 AM
 
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I don't think they're mostly astroturfers or imbeciles, though some may be. Most people I have encountered in real life and online, whether smart or dumb, genuinely motivated or pharma-financed, would use the term "anti-vax" as shorthand to describe most non-pro-vax views. Many simply haven't thought about how it might be inappropriate. Others have thought about it and genuinely disagree with you (and me) that it's inappropriate.

.
Except that when nicely reminded that the term "anti vax" is A) Not accurate, and B) Inflammatory, they demand to still use the term because they are entitled to their wrong word usage, despite the damage it does to a respectful understanding of personal rights for those who non/sel/delay vaccinating for their own families.

It also gives undue and untrue credit to the myth that there is a movement of "anti-vaxers", when in fact, no one I know who diverts from the schedule has any motive or desire to end vaccinating-only end the assault on the right not to if one desires to abstain.

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It is basically fake grassroots movements funded by political, corporate, or other special interests that manipulate and distort media messages.

A very effective corporate PR strategy.
Thanks to everyone for answering. I did (in a fit of non-laziness) also take a look at an online definition, and it matches the above.

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#21 of 86 Old 04-28-2015, 07:20 AM
 
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Except that when nicely reminded that the term "anti vax" is A) Not accurate, and B) Inflammatory, they demand to still use the term because they are entitled to their wrong word usage, despite the damage it does to a respectful understanding of personal rights for those who non/sel/delay vaccinating for their own families.

It also gives undue and untrue credit to the myth that there is a movement of "anti-vaxers", when in fact, no one I know who diverts from the schedule has any motive or desire to end vaccinating-only end the assault on the right not to if one desires to abstain.
That doesn't make them an imbecile or an astrotrufer, though. It makes them someone who chooses to do something you (and I) think is damaging. There are all kinds of such people in the world, and we can disagree with them and call them out about our disagreements without calling them imbeciles or questioning the genuineness of their beliefs.
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#22 of 86 Old 04-28-2015, 07:24 AM
 
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It might mean they are both. Who knows? The point is that these folks do exist, and like @Turquesa mentioned above, it really doesn't make much difference, as the argument for personal health care rights is strong enough without needing to "drive out the riff-raff". However, knowing that there are motivating factors, some of which are paid employment, helps to understand why some folks continue with a derogatory agenda. They are either just real hate-filled jerks (possibly), imbeciles, or astro-turfers. In the end, it's about the same.

ETA: It goes to show that when organizations/corporations go to the lengths they do to organize an astro-turf campaign, there must be a lot on the line. No one is going to go to those lengths for something non-lucrative.

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That doesn't make them an imbecile or an astrotrufer, though. It makes them someone who chooses to do something you think is damaging.
But they are being used by corporate/political/government interests if they choose to be part of an astroturf (ie fake grassroots) organization, so by extrapolation they could be called astroturfers. I guess they could be labeled imbeciles if they think the organization they are representing is a genuine grassroots one.

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I don't think they're mostly astroturfers or imbeciles, though some may be. Most people I have encountered in real life and online, whether smart or dumb, genuinely motivated or pharma-financed, would use the term "anti-vax" as shorthand to describe most non-pro-vax views. Many simply haven't thought about how it might be inappropriate. Others have thought about it and genuinely disagree with you (and me) that it's inappropriate.

I once encountered speculation in another forum that I might be a pharma shill, which was just completely infuriating and ridiculous. There probably are such astroturfers in some forums, but throwing around the accusation without evidence just suggests that the person doing the accusing can't understand how anyone could genuinely disagree with them and has to indulge a fantasy that such people are being paid.(I'm not talking about you here, I'm talking about the person who accused me of this elsewhere.)

That said, if anyone does know of anyone who wants to start paying me for my posts here, let me know. Getting paid to tell people on the internet that they're wrong is pretty much my fantasy job.

Those individuals accusing others of astroturfing probably recognize how easy it is for corporate lobbyists and marketers to get away with producing fake personas and operate online without any accountability or fear of detection. With technology today, I can only imagine the sophistication of astroturfing has increased a tremendous amount and thus more widespread.
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That said, if anyone does know of anyone who wants to start paying me for my posts here, let me know. Getting paid to tell people on the internet that they're wrong is pretty much my fantasy job.
Telling people that they are wrong is one thing and an easy one at that.

If that paycheque was dependent on providing (quality) evidence there would be a lot of shills getting their groceries at the food bank.
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#26 of 86 Old 04-28-2015, 01:25 PM
 
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We need to distinguish between settings where paying someone to post hate speech and noise is worth it and settings where it is not worth it.

Comments on newspapers yes. Comments on Facebook pages, probably not. Very few pages have enough steady readers to make it worth paying a PR firm to line up a bunch of people to use multiple fake IDs to generate a high volume of crap.

My simple method of distinguishing, in general, is if there is a large volume of comments with almost no actual content and very little individual personality expression, then we probably have an astro-turf attack under way.

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#27 of 86 Old 04-28-2015, 01:44 PM
 
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Fake public interest groups are a different problem. There are a number of varieties. The American Council on Science and Health, was, in my opinion, designed from the beginning to look like a consumer protection group while it served the interests of various corporations. They can be summed up this way: "We never saw a drug, a pesticide or a chemical that we didn't love."

A much more common type is the disease focused group. These usually start out grassroots, when people with a common illness join together for mutual support and perhaps a bit of lobbying for more research or aid. At some point the group starts accepting funding from a corporation which does something related to the disease. Eventually the group becomes wholly or partially "owned" and stops working for the interests of their members and serving the interests of their funders. For example, the group will promote particular drug regimens, or discourage funding of research into environmental factors that might be leading to increases in a particular illness. I think there may be some ADHD groups that have been taken over and definitely some of the breast cancer organizations.

There are non-profits that are pulled into supporting a legislative agenda. I think it was Women in Government who allowed themselves to be used by Gardasil in a campaign to mandate the vaccine in a bunch of states.

Groups that sound like environmental organizations but aren't.

And so on.

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#28 of 86 Old 04-28-2015, 03:18 PM
 
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Anyone following Adriana Gamondes's ten part series on AoA? Twelve yr old is vying for the computer so I don't have time to try to attach the pertinent quotes but so much of what Deborah just said is in there. Great stuff!

Darn that, "I have to do my homework", excuse.
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Anyone following Adriana Gamondes's ten part series on AoA? Twelve yr old is vying for the computer so I don't have time to try to attach the pertinent quotes but so much of what Deborah just said is in there. Great stuff!

Darn that, "I have to do my homework", excuse.
Thanks, I've read a bit of it.

Most of what I'm posting is either from actual direct observation or from stuff I learned either in library school or as a librarian.

The whole thing has become much more sophisticated over the last 20 years. Look at Quackbusters and then look at some of the breast cancer groups. It would take quite a bit of digging to work out that many breast cancer groups oppose research on environmental factors and even more to figure out why the funding plays a role.

It is easier to spot a supposed patient support group that is all for drugs and more drugs and no other options or considerations.
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vaccine injury is preventable
prevent it
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(if the government still allows you to say no...) #teamvaxchoice
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