University of Toronto Magazine University of Toronto Magazine
Illustration of an astroturf.
Illustration by Vanda Marasan

Astroturfing

The practice of faking a grassroots movement gets an update in the age of social media

In the mid-1990s, an organization called the National Smokers’ Alliance sprung up in the U.S. to fight new laws to restrict smoking. Although the group seemed to have been started by disgruntled smokers, it had, in fact, been created by Philip Morris Tobacco.

By masking its role in what seemed to be a grassroots movement, the company was “astroturfing.” Used by corporations to influence public policy, the practice is now being employed to get people to buy products, says Jenna Jacobson, a PhD candidate at the Faculty of Information. Companies identify social media “influencers” and pay them to promote their brands to followers. Not all influencers disclose the relationship, though – hence: astroturfing. “One objection is that audiences are being duped,” she says.

Recent Posts

Darren Hamilton in a blue patterned, long-sleeved shirt, seated in front of a piano, smiling and looking off camera

Spreading the Gospel

A Juno Award-winning teacher wants all his students to feel there is a place for them in music

A grassy field full of white clovers in a Toronto park, surrounded by trees and condo buildings in the distance

Cities Are Driving Evolution

Globally crowdsourced study shows that white clovers are biologically adapting to city life, demonstrating the profound impact of urbanization

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *