Gini Dietrich

Personas Created to Attack and Smear

By: Gini Dietrich | February 21, 2011 | 
147

I woke up on Saturday morning to a tag on Facebook with an article from The Daily Kos. The article, which has leaked information about a program from HBGary, describes astroturfing, bad publicity, and downright unethical public relations all bundled in one.

You know that gets me going!

The story.

HBGary is a defense contractor that works with the government (think Department of Defense and CIA) whose website doesn’t give you a lot of information. I guess when you work with the government, and you’re really good at your job, your site doesn’t need to say anything.

Neither here nor there.

Apparently Anonymous (the hacker who is responsible for a lot of the tightly secured information leaked to WikiLeaks) got into HBGary servers, discovered they are mounting an attack against WikiLeaks, and leaked a bunch of files. There is a lot of scary stuff in there, which I guess you would expect from a security company working with our government’s largest security agencies.

But the leaked documents that are interesting to me are the ones that talk about how they are creating personas to “attack” journalists, bloggers, commenters, and real people to “smear enemies and distort the truth.”

From some of the leaked materials:

To build this capability we will create a set of personas on twitter,  blogs, forums,  buzz,  and myspace under created names that fit the profile ( satellitejockey,  hack3rman,  etc ) .    These accounts are maintained and updated automatically through RSS feeds,  retweets,  and linking together social media commenting between platforms.    With a pool of these accounts to choose from,  once you have a real name persona you create a Facebook and LinkedIn account using the given name,  lock those accounts down and link these accounts to a selected  #  of previously created social media accounts,  automatically pre-aging the real accounts.

Oh, but wait! It gets better. Another document describes how they use automation so one person can represent a lot of different personas, doing the work of many with the stroke of a key.

Using the assigned social media accounts we can automate the posting of content that is relevant to the persona.  In this case there are specific social media strategy website RSS feeds we can subscribe to and then repost content on twitter with the appropriate hashtags. In fact using hashtags and gaming some location based check-in services we can make it appear as if a persona was actually at a conference and introduce himself/herself to key individuals as part of the exercise, as one example.  There are a variety of social media tricks we can use to add a level of realness to all fictitious personas.

The PR Perspective

I can’t imagine this isn’t happening in other companies, at global PR firms, and within government agencies, but the idea that someone will create personas on the social web to show consensus, is downright unconstitutional.

Companies creating personas to follow you on Twitter, read your blog, friend you on Facebook.

Personas who will group together and voice an opinion to change consensus.

Personas who will read your blog and gang up on you.

Personas who will change public perception because of the sheer number of “people” talking about one side of the argument.

I feel like the world, right now, is all about bad publicity as a means for building awareness. It’s quite disconcerting. It definitely does not help the perception people have of the PR industry.

These things are happening and the only thing we can do is refuse to do business this way. Who’s with me?

(Before you go to the comments, head over to our Facebook fan page to see who won The Now Revolution contest!)

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

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147 responses to “Personas Created to Attack and Smear”

  1. bdorman264 says:

    I’m all in; I’m with ya baby…………..however, it’s still a loaded gun and you just hope most of the people are using social media for the ‘good’ and not distorting the truth. As far as the government and the intelligence agencies this is probably mild to what they are cooking up.

    Bad publicity, bad news, celebrity train wrecks, it seems to be what sells these days. Yes Geni, keep fighting the good fight and and refuse to do business this way…………..I’ll still follow you…:).

  2. sydcon_mktg says:

    YIKES!!! You are so right that the bad news/publicity seems to be outweighing the good these days. I think it also is in line with the fact that so many people today have no morals, no respect for other people, just posses that “ME” mentality! Until we get away from that, and go back to respecting each other and carrying about the other guy I can’t see it changing.

    We even see this with kids. It’s scary as a Mom how many times I have read about Facebook pages created by classmates using another classmates name and then proceeding to bully others or spread rumors & untruths under that name.

    I am so with you Gini, on refusing to do business this way!

  3. Gini, some online marketers have already done it. They created fake fans and fake comments, astrosurfing is not new. So called ‘fans’ are often just spam bots.

    I still think that it is a tough one to create a completly ‘fake’ persona. In the age of video blogging and conferences, how do you get away without showing your face a single time? Especially if you are leading a campaign against someone or something. To make these account credible you would also have to create entire, families, friends, colleagues who are ‘fake’ and who like, RT and recomend each other.

    Perhaps these campaign starters would seed certain audiences and then ‘disapear’ once they have built up momentum for the idea they suport and let others carry the flame.

    I am on your side Gini, this is no way to do business. But I know a lot of companies and agencies who will do it.

  4. jeremymeyers says:

    Lest you think this is new, entertainment companies have been doing this for years.

    Theres a company called BzzAgent (i believe) that used to hire hot girls to go into bars and talk up certain beverages.

    This is what happens when marketing becomes a self-serving “goal unto itself” rather than something in service to a product in service to the public.

  5. MaureenB2B says:

    Wow – so much to comment on here; Many thanks for sharing it.

    Hear hear to your lament about bad publicity.

    But also just one more reason why I don’t care about Klout. Real measure of influence is where folks spend their money.

    Finally – I’ve gone back and forth re my view of the Wikileaks folks, but I’m leaning more towards feeling like they’re doing us a genuine service.

  6. joey_strawn says:

    It makes me sad that whenever a new medium arises with the promise of “open and honest communication with peers and markets” it seems the sole purpose of a lot of groups is to find ways to “game the system.”

    It doesn’t surprise me that as a whole, people seem to have lost faith in advertising, PR and corporate-speak over the years. Especially with more and more stories like the one you mentioned coming out each week it seems.

    I’m with you, Gini. I’ll help hopd down the fort of good PR and marketing with you as long as we can and keep fighting the good fight right alongside you.

    Hooah!

  7. ginidietrich says:

    @jeremymeyers Yeah…I know. I had that in my original blog post, but deleted it before I published. It’s not new. But it’s still disconcerting. There are so many of us doing communication in such an ethical and results-driven way, but it’s overshadowed by this crap.

  8. ginidietrich says:

    @johnfalchetto I know…I think the thing that bothers me about this one is that it’s astroturfing (Americans Against Food Tax), bad publicity (Kenneth Cole), and unethical practices (Enron) all in one.

    I think that’s the whole point – they ARE creating “families” of personas in order to build consensus. It’s really, really scary.

  9. ginidietrich says:

    @bdorman264 I was thinking about this just the other day – our biggest blog posts for the past 30 days have been around Kenneth Cole and Groupon. The crap does sell and, even though I’m fighting the good fight, the crap is what everyone wants to read here, too.

  10. ginidietrich says:

    @sydcon_mktg I don’t get it, Jen. Has it always been this way and we’re just getting older? Or do you really think it’s worse than in the past? Maybe it’s the same as always, but we see more of it because people and things are so accessible now. Whichever, I don’t like it.

  11. JGoldsborough says:

    I am with you. All I can say is wow. Social media tricks, huh? That’s the part that bothers me the most. Now if we can only figure out a way to BS people in person and make it appear that we are doing things we didn’t really do, we’ll be in great shape.

  12. ginidietrich says:

    @MaureenB2B Did you read my blog post for tomorrow already?! It’s about Klout. 🙂

    We certainly wouldn’t know about this instance without Wikileaks. I think there are some things that are treasonous, but this kind of stuff should be exposed.

  13. ginidietrich says:

    @JGoldsborough LOL! If we could figure that out, I’d no longer need a clone AND I’d have global domination by now.

  14. ginidietrich says:

    @joey_strawn I guess it shouldn’t surprise us – people have gamed the SEO system forever. Why wouldn’t they game the social media system?

    Speaking of SEO, what do you think about the JC Penney debacle? Think they knew their firm was doing some black hat magic?

  15. bdorman264 says:

    @ginidietrich I can see it now; your next blog post will be to come up w/ a psuedonym for the ‘bad’ Gini. One wk will be good stuff and the next will be the dirt. Of course it can all be done anonymously and blame it on the government when it comes to light…………….

  16. @ginidietrich All paid by your taxes!

  17. There will always be someone trying to game the system. We have to accept that this will happen but educate people to be aware of the risk and also encourage the development of tools that can unmask fake personae and astroturfing activity. Surely fake activity must have some kind of signature that people can detect. I’d like to see at least a warning that something does not look right.

  18. joey_strawn says:

    @ginidietrich Well, they say they had no idea who paid for those links to go out, but I’m not sure I believe that. I think they probably got some bad advice and now will pay for in the Google ranks.

    For a lot of companies, if there’s black hat magic to be done, it will be done if it helps drive sales.

  19. ShellyKramer says:

    Gini,

    This is horrific. And not surprising at all. People are gaming blog commenting systems, in some instances hiring people from overseas to do it at a pittance, gaming online reviews, contests, etc. Sometimes it’s just so incredulous – and in others not hard at all to understand.

    I’m with Andrew, and will be on a new generation of tools that can unmask fake personae and astroturfing activity. THAT will be awesome. And can’t be too far behind all this.

    Thanks for a great post.

    Your Stalker.

    Shelly
    @ShellyKramer

  20. RichBecker says:

    Gini,

    Sadly, this is a trend with some organizations. I caught one they other day by tracing back the initial source of RTed information from a friend (it was a document related to the WI mess). The original source was three fake people removed, with an obvious agenda. But it was clear that the person I knew had no idea that they were being played.

    I’m also familiar outside of organizations, when I was covering the fan protests related to some television shows. It was not uncommon to see people who wanted to establish more influence play the part of three or four people who agreed with them. Of course, that is small potatoes compared to what you are talking about here.

    Best,
    Rich

  21. Yuck! Bad enough that social media has given voices to so many people who use it to push agendas and sometimes in a very unkind way. I am also used to bots and spammers but to look real and use all that deception, just is upsetting. It makes me sad.

  22. FocusedWords says:

    The more things change, the more they stay the same. The defense industry in general is one of the most paranoid industries around. They have to be. After all, if we don’t have anyone to fear, what are they going to sell?

  23. MimiMeredith says:

    This leaves me sick to the core and a bit frightened…that usually leads to some action on my part, as I refuse to go into fear lock down.

    Today, what if each of us reached out by phone to connect with at least one person we know only via social media. What if we started moving back to the roots of real realationships that come from knowing the sound of another’s voice. Personas will still exist, but the idea of making a free two-minute cell phone call to someone to say, “I just wanted to introduce myself. It seems we follow a few of the same folks on Twitter…” or an in-person message to comment on a blog, or response to a follower. Too time intensive? Too personal? Then maybe we are all just really a persona.

    I’m going to go randomly call someone. Beware of a 480 area code, it could be me.

  24. bdorman264 says:

    @MimiMeredith But when you make the call it takes some of the mystique out of social media and the perception you have of your ‘new’ friends. You might be pleasantly surprised or might get a whoa now…………

    Plus I have found it much easier to cyber stalk than in person………..damn restraining orders…………….

    All kidding inside, what a great idea; an actual phone conversation with a voice and everything, less chance of misinterpreting the message.

  25. BobReed says:

    This isn’t about bad publicity… it’s crass manipulation and deception.

  26. Money and power warps the minds of people in both business and government.

    This mindset has always existed long before we arrived on the scene. It’s just being exposed more significantly by technology and the real time, worldwide communication that used to take place under the radar.

    Money and power often breeds evil communication which corrupts good manners, good intentions and the ability to possess good moral judgment. You’re naive to believe any different.

    It’s driven by a means to end mentality that sacrifices people for benefit or purpose of achieving an ultimate goal — the accumulation of more money, power and control. After all – we insignificant small people are just crowding the place up and are expendable for whatever “good” purpose we serve in their minds, right..?

    You don’t have to look very hard or far to see this corruptible mindset at work. It’s all around us in our governments and businesses. Even Mark Zuckerberg sees his colleagues at Harvard as dumb-fu&*s. If he sees these fellows as dumb fu&*s, you can imagine what his opinion must be of the majority of people who populate his social network, yes..?

    His high regard for people on his network is revealed loud and clearly through the respect he shows for the right to privacy to those individuals. A bit of an elitist mindset to say the least..? I guarantee you he’s laughing all the way to the bank right about now.

    What kind of mind (s) would be behind such activities such as the one you present here Gini..?

    Try to put yourself in their shoes, think their thoughts, and be motivated by things they’re motivated by — pretty sad, eh..?

    I would have to conclude that the last thing on their mind is the U.S. constitution.

    Oh, I’m with you and awaiting marching orders : )

  27. jeremymeyers says:

    @ginidietrich @bdorman264 Well then isn’t it up to you, Gini, to decide whether you want to be slinging “what kenneth cole can teach us about social media”-type linkbait (which may actually have insightful commentary…i havent read your take), or to use this channel with more integrity and be responsive to whats really happening, not reactive to what people will probably click on?

  28. HowieSPM says:

    The simplemindedness of the strategy I will say it won’t work. First unless people follow you on twitter or read your blog no one sees what you post. Also if you preach to the Choir does it matter? Meaning how will you get real people to follow and listen without real people actually posting things and working to win friends. Who will you win? Unless you start as a bleeding heart liberal and then switch gears it will be ultra right wing people who friend you (in this case specifically). So if this company only is reaching the people that are like them, does it make a difference?

    The only way I can see this effort working is if they can automate so many key words to actually trend on Twitter. But I myself never see the trending topics. You know pays attention to trending? 15 year old Justin Bieber fans. So kind of scary that a company supposedly so smart they work with the CIA to be so ridiculously dumb about social media. But then the key Iraq guy just announced he lied to the CIA about WMD in order to get us to invade Iraq. So maybe these people have never been the best and the brightest and that scares me.

  29. MimiMeredith says:

    @bdorman264 It was great TALKING to you, Bill! gini dietrich bdorman264 is not a persona ; )! I left a message for @ShellyKramer earlier. Can’t wait to hear if she’s real…ah the joy of human interaction!

  30. bdorman264 says:

    @MimiMeredith gini dietrich @ShellyKramer That was so cool; please tell everyone that was a southern accent and not a hillbilly one………:). I saw the 480 pop up and it put a big smile on my face…………………:) Have a fabulous day!

  31. HowieSPM says:

    @AndrewHennigan I was trying to gain some business using a freelancing site called ELance. Some of the job descriptions blew my mind. One wanted 50,000 real facebook profiles set up with real photos and friends within 30 days and the pay was something I think even India wouldn’t go for. I shared this with friends wondering why anyone would want this. But then I saw all the porn links posted on Brand fan pages and then I figured it out.

    Ever since the dawn of humanity there have been snakes and weasels and its a shame. Because like this company’s upper management these people should be in Gitmo for life.

  32. HowieSPM says:

    @joey_strawn @ginidietrich did I miss something about JC Penny where Everyday Matters?

  33. @HowieSPM Elance is very interesting, but probably not for the reasons intended. Sometimes I wonder how many of Facebook’s zillion profiles actually belong to real humans. And when I see an article in the Washington Post with 783 comments I wonder if any of the 783 are from real people who are neither paid trolls or bots. Sooner of later we have to fight back or see these spaces become unusable.

  34. rustyspeidel says:

    @bdorman264 @ginidietrich Let’s call her Gigi. She can wear a lot of goth makeup and black leather spike heels. Maybe some mesh stockings and a blood-red bodice. She can gossip with impugnity, share false links, write hyper-feminist manifestos, engage in black-hat SEO and write posts for TMZ.

  35. markwschaefer says:

    This makes my stomach turn. That is really all I can say and keep it appropriate. What a world. Good job on this Gini.

  36. KenMueller says:

    Sad, sad, sad. But I think you’re right. I’m sure that there are companies with deep enough pockets who have tried/are trying to do exactly this.

    Now the upside of this is that perhaps this company may have figured out a way to game Klout…

  37. AskAaronLee says:

    Now I know where those nasty comments come from. Must be from those accounts. 🙂
    Great post… really an eye opener.

  38. rustyspeidel says:

    But at the end of the day, we return to our old friend, Trust. I don’t place much value in a bunch of snarky comments from weird usernames I don’t know. Sure, they can game the technology, but not my sense of trust. That would take too much work. Right?

  39. Great story here Gini. I have strong feelings regarding this topic because I’ve been a victim of fake people on the internet and smear campaigns and all that jazz. I don’t have a problem with poeple of different opinions, I just have a problem with fake identities and ‘people’ who aren’t even real.

    Have you ever heard of Google’s ‘Humility Algorithm’. If you haven’t, just Google it and it will blow your mind. Thus, Google is as bad a perpetrator than anyone when it comes to promoting junk coming from fake people and/or competitors.

    I’m actually going to be writing an article about this soon but this was great, and needs to be talked about, as it’s only going to get worse.

    Marcus

  40. lazarus2000 says:

    Howie, this not only can but does work. And its not just someone writing on “your blog” think of a much wider audience. Comments on CNN, Yahoo, NPR, Salon, Huffington Post to name a few.

    It doesnt take much to side track or completely derail a conversation on an article and sway opinions. Just read any Yahoo! article and look at the comments. They get derailed rather quickly. Easy to draw attention away from the topic in the article by trolling with misinformation, flame wars, etc.

    On top of this, Ive seen software requests for this where part of the request is that VPNs and a bank of IP addresses are furnished with the software so that if you were to look at the IP addresses of a number of those commenters, youd see them originating from locations around the world, even though its just one person.

  41. This is astounding and terrifying: RT @ginidietrich Personas Created to Attack and Smear | Spin Sucks http://tinyurl.com/4l8xtqc

  42. Faking consensus: How the army of sock-puppet commentors will be created. http://tinyurl.com/4l8xtqc #WarOnReality

  43. rustyspeidel says:

    I am also of the opinion that after the first 100 comments, it’s all pretty noisy. So 3,562 comments from spam bots and fake personas does not inspire me to action any more than 50 from a tight community like this one.

  44. mdbarber says:

    Great post Gini. Unfortunately I saw some of this in action last fall during election season. Since, I’ve noticed Tea Party/conservative groups training their folks on how to do this. It’s rather frightening to see as supporters/followers of this movement blindly retweet and forward information without verifying. It’s also frighterning when you’re on the receiving end of one of their attacks.

  45. lazarus2000 says:

    @rustyspeidel So, lets say (hypothetically) that it happens here. You see a new commenter, a link to their blog, twitter, etc and they disagree with whats being posted here. Slowly an influx of new posters with legitimate looking backgrounds start commenting here. From there, they begin engaging you on Twitter and your followers (by seeing who you tweet) some people begin to agree with them. They slowly start to manipulate the message they are sending. Some of your followers start to retweet their tweets and posts because theyve developed a rapport with these personas. Their message gets spread, they get new followers, and they wash, rinse, repeat.

    This is how this works.

  46. lazarus2000 says:

    @rustyspeidel No, it wouldnt. What if the comments werent snarky. What if the posters names werent wierd. What if it was Adam Smith, from Cambridge, Mass. whos a post graduate student thats posting with ASmithMass as his name? What if he was posting what seemed like intelligent comments and questions to your post, blogs you read and conversing with people you follow on Twitter?

    Trust is easier to build than you think.

  47. omg?!? | Personas Created to Attack and Smear | Spin Sucks http://tinyurl.com/4l8xtqc RT @ginidietrich

  48. RT @ginidietrich Personas Created to Attack and Smear | Spin Sucks http://tinyurl.com/4l8xtqc

  49. rustyspeidel says:

    @lazarus2000 I think indifference is easier to exploit than trust. This may sound weird, but i only really trust content that resonates as true with me, that doesn’t make me wonder what the agenda is. I rarely stick around long if that doesn’t happen right away.

  50. rustyspeidel says:

    @lazarus2000 This assumes I’m just dying to interact with everyone that hits me up. I only share content that resonates with me, that I think reflects my personality and values. I only connect with folks who I think are interesting more than a few times or who share a common interest.

    But it sounds like they do what everyone does, just a lot faster.

  51. Downright Scary and Wrong: Personas Created to Attack and Smear http://tinyurl.com/4l8xtqc via @ginidietrich

  52. lazarus2000 says:

    @rustyspeidel But information warfare works in such a way that you may not be the direct target, but just an intermediary. By engaging you, having you respond a few times, then following some of your followers, and continuing the slow tricking flow of misinformation. Some less savvy follower may look at their tweet stream, see that they tweeted with you, and follow them back. They now have a toe hold into your follower stream and have new targets.

    Its great that everyone likes to say “it wont happen to me because I only ________” but what about your followers, friends and associates?

    Its like saying “I dont have to worry about the sharks, because I know how to swim away from them. The rest of you are on your own.”

  53. FocusedWords says:

    @lazarus2000 @rustyspeidel It doesn’t even seem to take more than a nanosecond to build trust with some people. I think a prime example is all of the emails out there that get forwarded to everyone the person knows. The major problem here is that the person isn’t using the “sniff” test (if it smells bad, check it out before consuming) before hitting forward. If it’s easy enough to do with people that don’t check things out, all it takes is a little more thought and intelligence put into the process to start capturing more thoughtful people. My stance is to question everything until I’m satisfied that it’s true.

  54. RT @ginidietrich Personas Created to Attack and Smear | Spin Sucks http://tinyurl.com/4l8xtqc

  55. ginidietrich says:

    @mdbarber Ah yes. The Tea Party. Sigh… it IS terrifying and even more scary that our industry is doing these kinds of things to get their clients “ahead.”

  56. ginidietrich says:

    @lazarus2000 @rustyspeidel I think we’re also assuming that the average blog reader is educated in marketing and sophisticated in reviews. Unfortunately that’s not the case. The article on Daily Kos used the words “weak minded” when talking about this, which I chose not to include in my blog post, but there are lots and lots and lots of people in this world who aren’t educated or savvy enough to drill through what’s real and what looks like BS.

    The scary thing is that I’ve taken on some big competitors. What if they released their persona bots to my blog to say I’m wrong and defend what looks like their friends who work at these agencies? It’d be hard to tell who was real and who was not.

  57. ginidietrich says:

    @Marcus_Sheridan I wish you weren’t right, but I also think it’s going to get worse. Hence…Spin Sucks. 🙂 I’ll be anxious to read your article on the topic.

  58. ginidietrich says:

    @AskAaronLee LOL! I created personas against you! I mean. What?

  59. ginidietrich says:

    @KenMueller I guess it’s not really any different than trying to game Klout or the search engines or reservations at a restaurant.

  60. ginidietrich says:

    @markwschaefer What a world is right!

  61. ginidietrich says:

    @GACConsultants Can’t I live in my naive world where this kind of thing doesn’t happen and people are infinitely good? WHY ruin it for me??

    Such a great point about the elitiest attitiude. I have plenty of friends who own businesses and think their clients are all dumb fu&*s. These people are successful in spite of themselves because we allow it to happen. Sad and scary.

  62. ginidietrich says:

    @BobReed It makes me nauseous.

  63. ginidietrich says:

    @bdorman264 @MimiMeredith @ShellyKramer OMG! You guys are a riot! Shelly is very, very real. I talked to her last week. She’s wicked smart and a joy to have around.

  64. ginidietrich says:

    @FocusedWords Ha! Great point! Fear is a great sales tool.

  65. ginidietrich says:

    @jeremymeyers I try very, very, very hard not to participate in linkbait, but I know some of the things I blog about probably look like that’s exactly what I’m doing. The Kenneth Cole thing was a different take from me – I looked at it from a business owner’s perspective. If something happens that takes me away from growing my business (having to apologize for days because of an ill-timed tweet) then I’m not doing my job. I hope that’s more about integrity and not reactive to what people will click on.

  66. ginidietrich says:

    @rustyspeidel @bdorman264 Oy

  67. ginidietrich says:

    @johnfalchetto Make room in the guest room! I”m on my way.

  68. ginidietrich says:

    @joey_strawn I agree with you (but then I inherently believe in the good in people), but A LOT of people think they knew exactly what they were doing.

  69. lazarus2000 says:

    @ginidietrich @rustyspeidel Exactly. That definitely wraps up everything Ive been trying to get at.

    Im a tad bit disturbed at everyones “Not Me!” attitude while having no thought about everyone else who are less educated in these tactics. Domestic policies, marketing campaigns, and social opinions are swayed not by a few people, but by large groups.

    Think your one voice can fight against a person running 25 personas? Do you have that much influence? How about 50 people running 25 personas each? Can you out influence 1250 people?

    Knowledge is power. The more you teach others, the less power those who try to manipulate them will have.

  70. ginidietrich says:

    @AndrewHennigan Totally agree – gaming the system will always happen. Now we just need more people educating than playing along.

  71. ginidietrich says:

    @ShellyKramer I love how you signed this. LOL! Yeah, the astroturding and paying for reviews has to stop. Where is the FTC?!?

  72. ginidietrich says:

    @RichBecker I guess this isn’t any different than Netflix hiring actors to act like excited Canadians who were finally getting the service. It’s all bad, bad, bad.

  73. ginidietrich says:

    @JulieWalraven It makes me sad, too. You know what else makes me sad? Not being able to use my skis in February.

  74. Verilliance says:

    Startling, and it goes without saying, terrifying.

    And yet, the premonitory warnings came long before the technology. Orwell foresaw the rewriting of history, the control of our media, while Huxley intuited our demise by entertainment with his essay on “Entertainment for the Masses” and the subsequent book, “A Brave New World”, and alluded to in this quote:

    “There will be, in the next generation or so, a pharmacological method of making people love their servitude, and producing dictatorship without tears, so to speak, producing a kind of painless concentration camp for entire societies, so that people will in fact have their liberties taken away from them, but will rather enjoy it, because they will be distracted from any desire to rebel by propaganda or brainwashing, or brainwashing enhanced by pharmacological methods. And this seems to be the final revolution.”

    It will take an ever increasing vigilance to ensure what we are reading is real or true. A vigilance that the average American citizen has no time for.

    Ok, stepping off the soapbox now. 🙂

  75. ginidietrich says:

    @lazarus2000 @rustyspeidel I see this every, single day. Business leaders who say, “No. No one is talking about us on the web. Our customers don’t use the Internet.” And then a simple Google search, in front of 200 other people, proves them wrong. People are not educated. We are because we live in this bubble and this is what we do. But most people will react to people instantly that they’ve not had time to develop trust with, but will believe them because of the sheer number of comments to the fact.

  76. ginidietrich says:

    @Verilliance Whoa. “A vigilance that the average American citizen has no time for.” This is the most true statement I’ve read all day. It’s sad. It’s scary. And it is terrifying.

  77. hackmanj says:

    @mdbarber political activists are notorious, the whole “the end justifies the means” idea. I would not restrict that to any particular group/party/cause I’ve seen examples everywhere, you just have to look. Gini has it right, Spin does Suck.

  78. Turns my stomach. How do ppl sleep at night? RT @ginidietrich Personas Created to Attack and Smear | Spin Sucks http://tinyurl.com/4l8xtqc

  79. ginidietrich says:

    @hackmanj You trying to catch up to my livefyre points?

  80. RichBecker says:

    @ginidietrich When the medium is no longer trusted, the message will become irrelevant. And yet, we have to figure out how to retain anonymity to preserve the more noble pursuits of it.

  81. hackmanj says:

    @ginidietrich livefyre while I admit to being competitive I am content to watch you bask in the glory of the Livefyre queen 🙂

  82. @ginidietrich Sorry about that… the “you’re” was aimed at a general audience and not even this audience! I appeciate your patience as I learn how to express myself through the written word. It’s really not an easy thing to do… Geez!

    “We allow it to happen” — that is sad and scary..!

  83. hackmanj says:

    @ginidietrich @RichBecker that reminds me of the enthusiastic voice of a local comedian in a number of different comercials for products he’s obviously never used. I am so glad I became a skeptic at a young age.

  84. lazarus2000 says:

    @rustyspeidel If everyone were as vigilant as you, Snopes.com would be out of business. Yet, somehow they thrive. So amazing.

  85. ginidietrich says:

    @GACConsultants Oh phew! I CAN stay in my naive world. Thank you.

  86. NancyMyrland says:

    @ginidietrich @bdorman264 @MimiMeredith @ShellyKramer All four of you are wicked smart and a joy!

  87. NancyMyrland says:

    @ginidietrich @ShellyKramer The FTC is the same place the FDA is in approving alternative medicines. They don’t have time to regulate that which they were established to do, so we must wait for any meaningful oversight.

  88. Verilliance says:

    @ginidietrich Have you met the Koch Bros? They have a heavy hand in astroturfing. HBGary, Hunton & Williams, and the Koch brothers all have links. Here’s an in-depth article on the Koch brothers. http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/08/30/100830fa_fact_mayer?currentPage=1

  89. Scary stuff. But not new. RT @ginidietrich Personas Created to Attack and Smear http://tinyurl.com/4l8xtqc

  90. Personas Created to Attack and Smear http://tinyurl.com/4l8xtqc via @ginidietrich – persona software management sure sounds evil.

  91. RT @ginidietrich Personas Created to Attack and Smear | Spin Sucks http://tinyurl.com/4l8xtqc This is a very, very important topic folks.

  92. MimiMeredith says:

    @NancyMyrland @ginidietrich @bdorman264 @ShellyKramer Well that makes five of us! Here’s to the gift of social media that remains untouched by big, big companies with personas. They’ll never know what they’re missing!

  93. Personas Created to Attack and Smear – http://tinyurl.com/4l8xtqc by @ginidietrich (Yuck. This type of thing makes me feel ill.)

  94. RT @jennwhinnem Personas Created to Attack and Smear http://tinyurl.com/4l8xtqc via @ginidietrich – persona software management sounds evil.

  95. RT @AmandaOleson: Personas Created to Attack and Smear – http://tinyurl.com/4l8xtqc by @ginidietrich (Yuck. This type of thing makes me feel ill.)

  96. Must-read! Social Media Personas Created to Attack, Smear http://tinyurl.com/4l8xtqc by @ginidietrich

  97. SWDK #JCUPR “@paolabrussels: Must-read! Social Media Personas Created to Attack, Smear http://tinyurl.com/4l8xtqc by @ginidietrich

  98. Have some time right now? Read the comments RT @spinsucks Personas Created to Attack and Smear http://tinyurl.com/4l8xtqc

  99. RT @ginidietrich: Have some time right now? Read the comments RT @spinsucks Personas Created to Attack and Smear http://tinyurl.com/4l8xtqc

  100. RT @ginidietrich: Have some time right now? Read the comments RT @spinsucks Personas Created to Attack and Smear http://tinyurl.com/4l8xtqc

  101. Thought provoking -> RT @ginidietrich Personas Created to Attack and Smear | Spin Sucks http://tinyurl.com/4l8xtqc

  102. Scary social media practices to be aware of. RT @spinsucks Personas Created to Attack and Smear http://tinyurl.com/4l8xtqc #in

  103. Scary. The dark side of social media. RT @ginidietrich Personas Created to Attack and Smear | Spin Sucks http://tinyurl.com/4l8xtqc

  104. RT @DavidSpinks: Scary. The dark side of social media. RT @ginidietrich Personas Created to Attack and Smear | Spin Sucks http://tinyurl.com/4l8xtqc

  105. RT @DavidSpinks: Scary. The dark side of social media. RT @ginidietrich Personas Created to Attack and Smear | Spin Sucks http://tinyurl.com/4l8xtqc

  106. I’m w/ you. Slime is ferreted out-eventually. RT @ginidietrich Personas Created to Attack and Smear | Spin Sucks http://tinyurl.com/4l8xtqc

  107. RT @ginidietrich: Have some time right now? Read the comments RT @spinsucks Personas Created to Attack and Smear http://tinyurl.com/4l8xtqc

  108. RT @DavidSpinks: Scary. The dark side of social media. RT @ginidietrich Personas Created to Attack and Smear | Spin Sucks http://tinyurl.com/4l8xtqc

  109. (WOW!) RT @ginidietrich Personas Created to Attack and Smear | Spin Sucks http://tinyurl.com/4l8xtqc

  110. RT @ginidietrich Personas Created to Attack and Smear | Spin Sucks http://tinyurl.com/4l8xtqc

  111. Personas Created to Attack and Smear http://tinyurl.com/4l8xtqc via @ginidietrich– interstin read on how social media can be manipulated

  112. Personas Created to Attack and Smear | Spin Sucks http://tinyurl.com/4l8xtqc

  113. Personas Created to Attack and Smear | Spin Sucks http://tinyurl.com/4l8xtqc an interesting read for sure.

  114. FocusedWords says:

    @lazarus2000 @rustyspeidel Let’s just hope we don’t find out that Snopes is a part of the whole conspiracy. 😉

  115. RT @ginidietrich Personas Created to Attack and Smear | Spin Sucks http://tinyurl.com/4l8xtqc

  116. ginidietrich says:

    @Verilliance Anyone who sends me New Yorker articles and quotes Huxley quickly climbs my list of people I want to meet, stat!

  117. Verilliance says:

    @ginidietrich And any woman who demonstrates potent business and leadership skills such as you is at the top of my list. 🙂 (I’m working my way there.) The only question is, Chicago or Massachusetts?

  118. rustyspeidel says:

    @Verilliance @ginidietrich Remember what i said last week. The average consumer JUST CANNOT BE BOTHERED.

  119. FocusedWords says:

    @rustyspeidel @Verilliance @ginidietrich Also remember P.T. Barnum…..A sucker is born every minute….I think with the internet age we have moved that timeline up to every 15 seconds.

  120. Verilliance says:

    @rustyspeidel @ginidietrich Is it really true that they “can’t be bothered”? How we frame this is important. Many of us have opinions about how people “ought” to behave, and we’re not alone. Philosophers, political theorists, economists have all had their “ideal” theories about how people ought to behave. Political theories from Democracy to Socialism all base their models on how people should behave, not how they actually do based on evolutionary and brain sciences.

    If you look at new theories coming out of decision science and behavioral economics it is easy to understand how the “average” citizen is duped by these tactics, and more importantly how it is not a matter of conscious choice (or ignorance).

    I think the average consumer CAN be bothered if given the right information to equip themselves.

  121. rustyspeidel says:

    @Verilliance @ginidietrich I agree, I mean you said it–vigilance we have to time for. My point, maybe poorly stated, is that the barrier to satisfaction is high and the barrier to abandonment is low. I would argue they are not duped by, but more indifferent to, these tactics. There is so much to choose from every day that the hooks have to be pretty big to snag our attention. If the information is not interesting, easy to react to, easy to share, easy to assimilate, or does not ring true for us, we bail FAST.

    I’m less concerned about how they “ought” to behave, but how they do, or don’t behave, in reality. And in all my years designing and managing user experience and community, I have found that “expected” user engagement and enthusiasm are usually grossly overestimated. I wonder, then, if our concern about the likes of HB Gary might be equally overstated.

  122. rustyspeidel says:

    @Verilliance@ginidietrich
    I agree, I mean you said it–vigilance we have no time for. My point, maybe poorly stated, is that the barrier to satisfaction is high and the barrier to abandonment is low. I would argue they are not duped by, but more indifferent to, these tactics. There is so much to choose from every day that the hooks have to be pretty big to snag our attention. If the information is not interesting, easy to react to, easy to share, easy to assimilate, or does not ring true for us, we bail FAST.

    I’m less swayed by how they “ought” to behave, but how they do, or don’t behave, in reality. And in all my years designing and managing user experience and community I have found that “expected” user engagement and enthusiasm are usually grossly overestimated. I wonder, then, if our concern about the likes of HB Gary might be equally overstated.

  123. This is terrifying.Period. RT @ginidietrich: Read the comments RT @spinsucks Personas Created to Attack and Smear http://tinyurl.com/4l8xtqc

  124. […] reading about fake personas being created to attack and smear and how social media can be used as a tool to abuse victims, there are also encouraging examples of […]

  125. […] both Gini Dietrich (@ginidietrich) and Shel Holtz (@ShelHoltz) highlighted the deceptive practice of creating fake online identities to clog social media conversations and attack opposition viewpoints. This is astro turfing at its […]

  126. ginidietrich says:

    @Verilliance Oh that’s easy – Chicago! If you’d said Chicago or Vail, we’d have a problem. 🙂

  127. RandomShelly says:

    I think that is very scary! Kind of defeats the whole pupose of having comments and a community when you don’t know what is real…

    Negative comments can be good and productive if they are real… Makes me wonder if people can figure out where this is going on? I know that some blogs and forums have so many posts/comments, that it might be hard to see it, but hopefully most sites can rectify this if it happens to them!

    I think I’d kinda be pissed off if I found out I was arguing with a ‘robot’ 🙂 Maybe get in an endless loop of “Am not”, “Are too”? HA- sorry, silly today 😉 xox

    OH – and Gini – I read in a comment below Chicago and VAIL are your favorite places? FYI – Vail is by far my favorite place to ski! #FYI #FileThatKnowledgeAway 😉

  128. LandlordRescue says:

    I would find this hard to believe if I didn’t have an internet troll following me around for 8 months doing this, using proxy servers, commenting on Forums just to discredit me, using different names, reposting things I wrote in one forum in another forum under an alias and just last week stealing my kids picture off my blog and using it as an avatar on a forum. Thankfully now the forums I still go to won’t allow anyone using a proxy server to post. All because of one sick twisted troll who has fixated his attentions on me. The idea that I am this fascinating and important to this person I have never met or had any dealing with is just astonishing.

  129. […] Astro Turfing and Fake Personas on Social Media (from @ginidietrich): […]

  130. […] them are the best fighters for this kind of war – imaginary people.  HBGary was caught no only encouraging people to set up fake Ids to engage in comment wars on blogs but even providing programs to automate the process.  Legions […]

  131. […] measure is often very hard to do. How can you measure social interactions? Especially when you have fake social media personas out there and real ones who are just as […]

  132. […] reading about fake personas being created to attack and smear and how social media can be used as a tool to abuse victims, there are also encouraging examples of […]

  133. […] WikiLeaks thing is fascinating to me. Some of it I think is treasonous, while others (like the HBGary fake personas story) I think are extremely useful. Now we know who is […]

  134. […] that most people will find real and, I would argue, social media robots won’t really become that sophisticated because they can’t use narrative gaps on purpose, or even convincingly by […]

  135. […] There is a misconception among the public that if you want to have a great image online, all you need to do is contact a PR agency. If you need to someone can even create an entirely fake online persona. […]

  136. Anh Omundson says:

    Personas Created to Attack and Smear Spin Sucks

    […]How To Advertise Your Life Coaching Business?[…]

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