Social Movements And Activism, Collective Behavior
Astroturfing is advocacy, often in support of a political or corporate agenda
appearing as a "grassroots" movement.
The goal here is to disguise the efforts of a political, commercial or other entity, as an
independent public reaction to a politician, political group, product, service or event.
Astroturfing may be orchestrated by political consultants who specialize in opposition
Astroturfing may be by an individual promoting a personal agenda, or highly
organized professional groups.
Astroturfers orchestrate the actions of apparently diverse and geographically distributed
individuals, by both overt and covert means. Beneficiaries are distant organizations that
orchestrate such campaigns, not grass root campaigners.
The term astroturfing is a derivation of AstroTurf, a brand of synthetic carpeting
designed to look like natural grass, that is, astroturfing refers to imitating or faking
popular grassroots opinion or behaviour.
Astroturfing is prohibited by the national associations for members of the
public-relations and communication profession in the United States, Australia and the UK
respectively through the code of ethics of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA),
the Public Relations Institute of Australia (PRIA) and the Chartered Institute of Public
Astroturfing is a technique where a few people attempt to give the impression that
mass numbers of enthusiasts advocate some specific cause. This technique is also known as
In 1998, television ads and phone-banks were used to simulate "grassroots"
opposition to a bill aimed at discouraging teenage smoking. According to The New York
Times, "Those smokers who are reached by phone banks sponsored by cigarette makers,
or who call the 800 number shown in television ads, are patched through to the senator of
In 2003, "grass-roots" letters favouring Republican Party policies appearing in
local newspapers around the US were denounced as "astroturf", Google searches
revealed that identical letters were printed with different signatures.
Black propaganda is information that purports to be from a source on one side of a
conflict, but is actually from the opposing side. In business, astroturfing is one form of
stealth marketing, which can include the manipulation of viral marketing.
Journalist Ben Smith of The Politico has observed, "Interest groups across the
spectrum have grown expert at locating, enraging and turning out authentic Americans. And
the operatives behind the crowds say there's nothing wrong with a practice as old as
It has become easier to structure a commercial astroturfing campaign in the electronic era
because the cost and effort to send an e-mail (especially a pre-written,
sign-your-name-at-the-bottom e-mail) is so low.
The People's Republic of China has employed paid "astroturfing bloggers", known
as "red vests", "red vanguard", or the "50 Cent Party", a
reference to the 5 mao they are paid for each supportive post.