I have previously posted before, our democratic freedoms are being circumvented online by an organised campaign against progressive ideals. This is no surprise to anyone who has been trolled out of online debates by neo-conservative posters zealously upholding the status quo.
So it should also be no surprise that this kind of Social Engineering is being utilized by corporate interests to manipulate the clean energy debate. As this report from The Montreal Gazette states:
The marketing has involved professional bloggers working for M THIRTY, a Toronto-based communications firm, who actively use social media websites such as Facebook or Twitter to simulate or kick-start online conversations with a consistent message promoting the views of their clients.
In the above instance it was stated the client was the Ontario Power Workers’ Union, however this type of faux user-generated content is available to any corporation or NGO who is willing to fit the bill. A price for opinion, so to speak.
The problem with this kind of assault of our freedom of expression is that it is a divide and conquer method to exponentiate any internal disputes within the groups where misinformation like this is posted. A reader of such a debate who is trying to learn the issues surrounding the topic is bombarded with this type of disinfo in such a way that they are unable to discern the truth from the marketing.
So how can the general public be expected to know the difference between a PR campaign and actual User-generated content? here are some of my thoughts:
Marketing professionals use marketing language–such as “weasol words”, pejorative words and phrases to cause an emotive response with the reader. Logic is reason, not emotion.
What are antagonists doing in the forum in question?, if they have a negative view of the topic in general, then why are they even concerned to join in the debate.
Who are these people blaming for the problem?. if there is a clear target of blame then is it congruent with the views of the forum which it is posted?.
- Ganging up:
Often it is more than one profile attacking a thread, look into those that are quick to support the questionable postee, are their views in line with those of the forum?.
there are other ways to tell an agent provocateur however one must remember that no checklist is fool-proof. There are a over a billion people on the web, and some of those people are idiots, trolls or even just ill-informed. But its good to know that the “shills” (as they say on conspiracy websites) do exist, and will try to manipulate your ideas.
Be forever vigilant. The internet is serious business.