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The War on Information
January 10, 2013 12:05 PM   Subscribe

Your job, should you choose to accept it, is to determine if this shadowy internet shill has a Metafilter account. Not really. Although I knew paid shills existed, I am a little surprised at just how organized they seem to be. I probably shouldn't be.
posted by COD (68 comments total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: Yeah, the story seems suspect as well as the site linked. -- mathowie



 
While I don't doubt there are folks paid to troll the internet this story sounds like something he made up.
posted by zeoslap at 12:10 PM on January 10, 2013 [8 favorites]


Fake.

I should mention I get paid to say that.
posted by a shrill fucking shitstripe at 12:13 PM on January 10, 2013 [14 favorites]


The fact that The Jooze are the bad guys sets off all kinds of bullshit alarms for me. I agree with zeoslap; I think this is bogus.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 12:13 PM on January 10, 2013


I know that paid shills exist, but there's something a little too... novella about this. Run-down office building without even a ficus. Swearing someone to secrecy (I mean, really? You can't tell your wife that you are paid to lie on the internet?).
Although I didn’t work for ATS, I did see they had a lot of info on your so-called “WATS” posters here (the ones with gold borders around their edges).
Of COURSE he did. Nothing strokes the ego of a Big Name Poster than knowing that they have some notoriety.
posted by muddgirl at 12:13 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also who the f*** would pay for a shill to post on godlikeproductions?
posted by gyc at 12:19 PM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Part of being a real man in this world is having real values that you stand up for, no matter what the consequences.

Way to stay anonymous
posted by phaedon at 12:20 PM on January 10, 2013


The story seems ... sexed up, although I don't doubt that there are operations like this around. But why the office in the shitty part of town? There's no reason why they couldn't run something like that 100% remotely, hiring people who already have computers and internet connections already.

Plus, with everyone operating out of the same office like that, and presumably (judging by the general shittiness of the office) from the same shared internet connection, they'd get permabanned off of the web pretty quickly.

Much easier and more effective to farm the work out to people who'll use their own connections, so that it seems more genuine.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:22 PM on January 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


Also who the f*** would pay for a shill to post on godlikeproductions?

The international Jewish conspiracy, of course!
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 12:23 PM on January 10, 2013


I'm also having a hard time believing that this actually happened, if for no other reason than that it makes no sense at all for an operation like this to be set up in a central location.
posted by asnider at 12:25 PM on January 10, 2013


This guy is shameless.
posted by orme at 12:25 PM on January 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Above Top Secret? Really?
I think the clue should be that it is listed under "Short Stories".
posted by charred husk at 12:26 PM on January 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


The story seems ... sexed up

I had the same feeling. It's definitely been reproduced over and over again on the internet and seemed weird to me. Now I am a nitpicky internet person so this is probably a predictable reaction but the "And it's about Israel!" part was when I went from "Huh." to "No fucking way." Even Stormfront (no, I am not linking) thinks this guy is full of shit.

The whole world of disinformation and propaganda is pretty interesting. We know that there are people spreading disinformation to manipulate markets and public opinion. But not, I don't think, like this.
posted by jessamyn at 12:28 PM on January 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Anyone remember dhoyt/jenleigh/highsignal/hall of robots?
posted by Freen at 12:28 PM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, and having your paid shills (apparently well-paid shills, too!) spend their time feeding the trolls on conspiracy-theory bulletin boards doesn't seem like a high-ROI strategy, either.

Though it does sound like the sort of thing that people on conspiracy-theory boards, particularly boards heavy on "International Jewry"-centric theories, would like to believe.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:28 PM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I wish to GOD the playwright still had the play available to read on his web site - but I did a play about 10 years ago about someone very akin to this; the closest I can get you to read is a review here. It was about a guy like this, an out-of-work PR guy, who takes a job as the PR rep for right-wing militia groups - because he's apathetic enough to think that "meh, there's not much difference between trying to sell this and trying to sell a Snuggie, if you think about it." Only then, of course, he realizes that no, there is a big difference between the two.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:32 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Even the proper use of images of cats was discussed.

They all called me a conspiracy theorist, but now you see that it's true - We finally have documentated confirmation that the Illuminati are finally starting to harness the well-known mind-control powers of cats!

We can't afford to delay anymore - we need to move quickly before they implement phase 2 - flooding the web with pictures like this to pacify us and turn us into their docile servants! Or pictures like this! Or this...

Awwww... look at that cuteness. You know what? Never mind what I just said; I'm sure the New World Order won't be that bad.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 12:34 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think the clue should be that it is listed under "Short Stories".

Ugh, yeah. I didn't even notice it was posted explicitely in a fiction forum. Some of the comments imply that it's a well-circulated bit of 'conspiracy fanfiction.'
posted by muddgirl at 12:39 PM on January 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Funnily enough my good friends in Mossad were telling me the other day "damienmce, of course a huge part of our global conspiracy to establish Israel as the 23rd ranked country in the OECD involves paying people to post to conspiracy websites. This is were all the movers and shakers who determine global policy towards Israel hangout". We then lit cigars and took turns playing with the machine that controls global interest rates and started typing up Obama's schedule for his second term while chastising ourselves at our inability to assassinate Alex Jones, despite all the resources at our disposal.
posted by Damienmce at 12:40 PM on January 10, 2013 [10 favorites]


Yes it is obviously false.

Speaking only from seeing what the kind of people and firms who try to do this sort of internet PR do on wikipedia:

1.Major clients already have their own expensive PR firms to shill for them, but most of the time the big PR firms are far too savvy to waste time on this (unless they think they can charge for it). Thus, the recent Bell Pottinger wikipedia controversy.

2. Minor companies do, semi frequently get it into their heads to pay someone to write or edit wikipedia for them - but no where near enough to support it as a sustainable source of income for a one-man business, let alone a "company".
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 12:41 PM on January 10, 2013


This guy is shameless

Richard Marx?
posted by Damienmce at 12:41 PM on January 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


"At first, like I said, my job was “meme-patrol.” "

Really? Seriously?

This is b-grade cyberpunk fanfic.
posted by GuyZero at 12:54 PM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I am Spartacat!
posted by y2karl at 12:55 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Plus, with everyone operating out of the same office like that, and presumably (judging by the general shittiness of the office) from the same shared internet connection, they'd get permabanned off of the web pretty quickly.

Actually, that seems the most realistic part to me. First, the MO is to recruit financially desperate people who can't afford to be picky. These are precisely the people who have probably cancelled the broadband and maybe even flogged the laptop. There's also a distinct risk of flakiness - keeping them on a tight leash makes it easy to check they're actually working, and keep an eye on the quality of their work; and switch their assignments about as needed. Being able to watch over their shoulders as a group is still the easiest and cheapest way to do that. Just look at low rent telesales or scam cold caller offices, they use the same setup.

The shared IP isn't much of a problem (given it's not usually visible to non-mods) - and unless someone is being a real dick the mods aren't terribly likely to be paying that much attention - and they were supposed to suck up to mods. Alternatively, low quota VPN's are dirt cheap or even free, and ample for message board posting.

The jewish conspiracy thing makes me suspicious, certainly, but it's not exactly a secret that corporate astro-turfing is a real thing; and it's not much of a stretch for me that political groups may take advantage of the same techniques. How much money gets channelled from the US to Israel? It's not impossible some group would be invested in tackling public anti-semitism to keep that cash flow rolling - maybe the buyer is a US defence supplier, who knows.

In a world where the Tea Party has substantial membership of congress, and the NRA can suggest arming teachers as the appropriate response to a school massacre, are but two examples that make me wonder how manipulated we really are.
posted by ArkhanJG at 12:57 PM on January 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


there are many out there that are doing this shit, If you are not wise you will will loose your way on the internet
posted by homestorage4u at 12:58 PM on January 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


^ eponysterical
posted by mr_crash_davis at 12:59 PM on January 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Could a mod insert a line into the post saying that this is fiction, for people who don't notice that it's labeled as such on the site?
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:01 PM on January 10, 2013


No. People can read the thread. We have access to the same words on the page as everyone else and editing the post after we're 26 comments in just isn't something we do.
posted by jessamyn at 1:03 PM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


If this is fiction it's of the worse kind (antisemitic). And it's not like astroturfing doesn't exist so yeah we do need to be on guard for it, so the piece isn't satire. At best maybe sarcasm.
posted by stbalbach at 1:05 PM on January 10, 2013


We could take his posts from the ATS. Then we could do an analysis to train a model of his writing style using well known measures using those posts (sentence length, words per sentence, common word frequency and word length are thought to be fairly reliable fingerprints iirc). Then gather stats on each MeFi post. Compare post to the model. Get all posts for author of the flagged post. Build a model of that author using the same measures. Compare potential author to the base model and other models. If there is a strong correlation between base and a target or cluster of targets vs the wider sample then you can set a confidence level that the account(s) in question represented this paid shill.
posted by humanfont at 1:07 PM on January 10, 2013


but it's not exactly a secret that corporate astro-turfing is a real thing

Because corporations want people to buy products

but it's not exactly a secret that corporate astro-turfing is a real thing

US Defense suppliers don't need to pay to convince the American people that, say, we need to defend Israel against Saudi Arabia, even if that means a pre-emptive strike. They just need to pay congresspeople, as they already do.

This sort of paranoia (propogandists are infiltrating our forum/newsletter/etc) is incredibly common and incredibly pernicious. Any rational viewpoint is clearly a hired shill. I have no doubt that whoever wrote this article imagines that this sort of thing really does occur.
posted by muddgirl at 1:08 PM on January 10, 2013


It's you, isn't it, COD? You're just daring us to find out.
posted by emjaybee at 1:10 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't particularly buy this specific instance, but it sure seems like it happens. All you really have to do is tune into the Ars Technica threads to see shills in action; they have a lot of them, especially in threads related to global warming. But you also see them in various tech threads; there was a fairly obvious one that was pro-EA awhile ago, talking hard against the anger about the bullshit they're pulling with the next version of SimCity. (the ultimate singleplayer game, that no longer works singleplayer.) And there seems to be at least a few pro-Microsoft ones there; they were all over the Windows 8 threads, pre-release, trying to do damage control.

Now, Ars has a pretty strong contingent of pro-Microsoft people natively, but go back and read some of those old threads, and the shilling is blatant.

This is part of why I'm so worried about allowing links to ads, any ads whatsoever, on Metafilter. If they're allowed at all, then shills will insert themselves into the community to hijack it for their own ends. A MeFi post is worth a lot of money.
posted by Malor at 1:16 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Meta
posted by yellowbinder at 1:19 PM on January 10, 2013



I did contract IT for a non-profit "Public Outreach" group, not too long ago. Yep, they hired 12-15 people as "paid shills", which is why I'm very certain that this story is bullcrap.

Initially, they had a lab with a bunch of computers, and there was an informal sort of "briefing" on what message they'd like to get out there, and what types of sites they'd like them to be on, etc. The idea was, this way, they could make sure people were actually doing the work, and monitor this. Some things to note:

1) All of the people who do this now work from home, and are hired regionally. This gets around moderators noting the similarity in IP addresses, cuts down on facilities costs, and monitoring these people's activity is as simple as having VPN (default gateway turned off) setup, and the users cut and past screen grabs on the network share.
2) 99.999% of these people would probably do this stuff for free. When they're interviewed, some of the questions are geared towards pruning those who may think otherwise. It's not groupthinc or brainwashing, it's no different than asking a potential employee for an engineering job "Do you like working with _______".
3) There's nothing shadowy about these operations, since it's not illegal. These companies have legal consultants that view TOS of websites, and they know pretty darn well what they can and can't say, and what to put in account registrations. Even if you're a webmaster and you uncovered their operations, the most you can do is block them (not easy for reasons in #1)
4) Yeah, it's a dick move, but any company that hires a PR firm expects something like this.

TL;DR - This is FanFic, but it shouldn't disillusion anyone with a pulse and an internet connection.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 1:23 PM on January 10, 2013 [11 favorites]


I don't get the shill skepticism.

We already know people are paid to fake viral links - anyone remember the reddit Saydrah paid-links controversy from a couple of years ago? These people haven't gone away.

Employing people to directly argue in the comments feed is just one level up.

I'm not going so far as to argue that everyone who disagrees with me is a paid shill, but it makes plain sense as far as marketing strategies go - someone operating under multiple aliases can easily shift in canned responses and suddenly shift the status quo of the thread or forum.

Oh, but everyone else in the thread says they haven't had any issues with their $copy_of_product, and for every climate change argument there are three skeptics!
posted by pmv at 1:24 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


The next day, I arrived at the address – the third floor in a crumbling building.


This is great! Thomas Ligotti is writing again!
posted by Mister_A at 1:26 PM on January 10, 2013


Damn it, you guys!

The boss promised me this place was all mine, no poaching. And here you all are.

You know what I had to do to get a lock on MetaFilter?

Well, you DON'T want to know. And you all screwed me over by posting here.
posted by Samizdata at 1:27 PM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


This section also contained a number of hints for de-railing conversations that went too far away from what we were attempting. These strategies included various forms of personal attacks, complaining to the forum moderators, smearing the characters of our opponents, using images and icons effectively, and even dragging the tone of the conversation down with sexual innuendo, links to pornography, or other such things. “Sometimes we have to fight dirty,” or trainer told us. “Our opponents don’t hesitate to, so we can’t either.”


I dunno -- an awful lot of this explains the last 6 months or so that I spent vainly trying to engage people at the old Mac News Network forums. There was (is) a pol/war lounge sub-forum that started out as discussions amongst long-time site members, but seemed to attract a really weird variety of troll that would show up on the forum specifically to go nuts on the place and a couple of the shoutiest, weirdest newcomers in particular were weirdly pro-Israel.

I'm not saying it's not totally made up, but I can kinda see it. I had to abandon ship on that snakepit about the time I signed up here in the mid-aughts.
posted by Devils Rancher at 1:30 PM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I dunno, sites like Yelp and Amazon reviews, and hell, even AskMeFi promise to offer to be broad, democratic slices of humanity. A HiveMind to tell you the best restaurant, or best mechanic, or whatever.

But if you think about it, do YOU know anyone who's ever written an online review?

And they are so vulnerable to this kind of sleaze.

Maybe its all fake.

....

Maybe metafilter is fake! Some millionaire somewhere has a patent on Snark and so created metafilter to guarantee its existence for the next million years.
posted by cacofonie at 1:34 PM on January 10, 2013


Writing these kinds of things is like slipping someone poison. No, more like a recurring disease. The idea remains, however denied, that so-and-so could be a paid shill. What a terrible thing to inflict on the internet.
posted by Slackermagee at 1:38 PM on January 10, 2013


The bit about the "crumbling building" is where he lost me.

I have this weird urge to rewrite his story, but set it in an anonymous strip mall storefront. A nail salon on one side, and a vacuum cleaner/small appliance repair store on the other side. The space used to be the remote suburban outpost of a real estate agency that specialized in gated communities, but they went under during the real estate crash. That's why there's still a counter at the front desk, plus a big pile of lock boxes abandoned in the back corner.

From there, it's basically just a work of Douglas Coupland fanfic wherein a young man fumbles with his moral compass, set against the poignant ruins of America's slow-motion collapse into apathy and decrepitude.

(Spoiler alert: he quits his job and gets the girl, but they have to move in with his parents because he can't afford an apartment now that he's unemployed.)
posted by ErikaB at 1:50 PM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


"(Writing has always been a hobby for me). She gave me only a phone-number and an address, in one of the seedier parts of San Francisco, where I live. intrigued, I asked her for the company’s URL and some more info. "
FAIL! Writers know that the first word in a sentence is capitalized!
posted by ericb at 2:07 PM on January 10, 2013


"After walking down a long, filthy linoleum-covered corridor lit by dimly-flickering halogen..."


"...lit by a dimly-flickering halogen bulb." FTFY.
posted by ericb at 2:10 PM on January 10, 2013




Why would a sane and rational person, having come to understand the the past and being aware of official government contract requests along with actual government ministry offices developing software to drive commentary still think "this idea of fake/directed comments is all made up"?

Who has said that or anything like it? I think people might be tilting at strawmen here. We seem to be in pretty unanimous agreement that, while this story is bunk, paid shills and other forms of attempted opinion swaying do exist. I mentioned a popular one upthread - just pay your congressperson to claim that your viewpoint is the dominant one and legislate accordingly.
posted by muddgirl at 2:29 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


"They'll never believe you." - some famous guy or the head of some secret agency
posted by batmonkey at 2:38 PM on January 10, 2013


She gave me only a phone-number and an address, in one of the seedier parts of San Francisco, where I live. intrigued, I asked her for the company’s URL and some more info. She laughed. “They don’t have a website. Or even a name. You’ll see. Just tell them I referred you.” Yes, it sounded suspicious, but long-term joblessness breeds desperation, and desperation has a funny way of overlooking the suspicious when it comes to putting food on the table.

The next day, I arrived at the address – the third floor in a crumbling building. The appearance of the place did not inspire confidence. After walking down a long, filthy linoleum-covered corridor lit by dimly-flickering halogen, I came to the entrance of the office itself: a crudely battered metal door with a sign that said “United Amalgamated Industries, Inc.” I later learned that this “company” changed its name almost monthly, always using bland names like that which gave no strong impression of what the company actually does.
Why are wildly successful entrepreneurs so often depict as shiftless? Most of the entrepreneurs I know pass for human without difficulty.
posted by vhsiv at 2:56 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


And here I am trolling MetaFilter for free, like a sucker!
posted by resurrexit at 3:04 PM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


In Metafilter, shill pays you.
posted by chavenet at 3:06 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Lame. Israel/Palestine shilling is bottom of the barrel stuff, he shouldn't have left so soon. Once you're trained and shown to be fully trustworthy, your manager will send you off to the head office in Nevada to shill for more important clients. That's were the interesting stuff happens.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 3:11 PM on January 10, 2013


Guys, "abovetopsecret.com" is so out there that it makes Alex Jones look like the New York Times.

Seriously, this is a shit site. Nothing there should be graced with a link.
posted by edheil at 3:14 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I won't believe this until I see it confirmed on rense.com.
posted by Splunge at 3:24 PM on January 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Paid shills exist. In my experience, though, when you're approached, it's almost always a shadier PR firm trying to increase the "social network" presence of their few clients. Usually, you've already come to their attention through some other channel, generally by having written something influential (interestingly, the nasty, negative stuff gets more attention than the positive). We all know influential bloggers, for example, and what you're looking for in a paid shill is someone who already has an online presence, someone with a proven record of bringing in page views. So being anonymous isn't part of it. It's not your name that they want to hide, it's their connection to you.

They'll contact you, ostensibly to try to get you to "change your perception" and "just give them another chance". But along the way they'll suggest you join this board or committee, which would be okay in itself; nothing wrong with working for a living. It's when you're asked not to write the negative stuff, and/or when you are asked to keep this connection quiet, that you need to decline and run like hell.

But hey, people get greedy and it's easy money, and they must get some nibbles or they wouldn't keep trying. The upside is that once you've turned them down, you'll likely make some good contacts out of it, the people you really want to know, who don't condone that kind of crap.

Oh, and if you meet with them, they wine and dine you, or try to, rather than get together with you in some dilapidated storefront or the like. Why would you want to work for someone who comes across as having no budget to pay you?

This FPP's source is so obviously fake it's absurd. I can't believe anyone would fall for this, even if it wasn't labelled as a short story.

All this conspiracy theory and top-secret stuff reminds me of that famous thread with the fake mall security guy and the other poster who was shining him on, where the guy talked about the improvised weapons he had, etc. As I recall, a mod stepped in to break it up, also pretending to take the guy seriously. Anyone have a link for that?

Anyway, obvious BS.
posted by misha at 3:38 PM on January 10, 2013


The story is obviously fake but it raises some important questions. Is Israel the greatest nation ever on Earth or greatest nation on Earth, ever? Do you think that Benjamin Netanyahu is a great leader or are you a horrible anti-Semite who reads Mein Kampf as a bedtime story to your children?
posted by double block and bleed at 3:49 PM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yes, there exists shilling and astro-turfing.

But I'm certain that the linked story is fiction. How? Because I've run into too many nutbars who'll gladly shill, even lie, for free, in defense of their pet cause.
posted by Artful Codger at 3:54 PM on January 10, 2013


I would comment on this, but matt still hasn't paid me for last month.
posted by notme at 4:01 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, and having your paid shills (apparently well-paid shills, too!) spend their time feeding the trolls on conspiracy-theory bulletin boards doesn't seem like a high-ROI strategy, either.

Sometimes a troll is just a troll.
posted by jaduncan at 4:15 PM on January 10, 2013


I don't know about the rest of you, but now seems like a great time to drink some Ovaltine to me!
posted by gjc at 4:23 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


OK, the noir tone was pretty comical. His claim that he didn't shill on "abovetopsecret.com" though there were others who did - a web site I imagine many of us have never heard of before today - strikes me as laughably thin.

But this is what proved to me it's fake:

" I wanted to post this on Godlike Productions at first, but they have banned me from even viewing that site for some reason "

Wait. They have a room full of guys clicking away on shabby computers. I assume that's where they would work from. So if paid-shill-guy gets a ban, he is banned by IP.

That would imply he meant to post his admission...from work? Doesn't he have a home computer...with a different IP?

ಠ_ಠ

And back to the shabby room with shabby computers and shabby people shabbily typing. Let's throw in a bunch of Mountain Dew cans (amirite? lol) and the keyboards with cigarette burns on them (because hey, shabby). Maybe some Chinese take out containers.

Just need a slinky broad dangerously doing whatever it is swanky dames - oops, slinky broads - do.
posted by Xoebe at 4:35 PM on January 10, 2013


gjc: "I don't know about the rest of you, but now seems like a great time to drink some Ovaltine to me!"

I would certainly drink some Ovaltine to you! But alas, I have none. Will bourbon suffice?
posted by Splunge at 4:56 PM on January 10, 2013


There is a difference between astroturfing and what this kind of thing would be if it existed. The main difference is that this story is about someone being paid to argue with people that have already formed opposing views about whatever it is he is paid to shill for whereas with astroturfing the person is simply mentioning or promoting a product/political candidate/idea without also mentioning that they are being funded to do so.

The idea that this would work or that people would pay for this service is laughable since it wouldn't work out to be anywhere near cost effective to do this. People just aren't convinced easily by argument and even if you do manage to convince someone after hours of replying to their arguments, how many other people are you going to convince without also arguing with them?

Also, the country, Israel, is quite different from the religion, Judaism, so I fail to understand how this fictional story is anti-semitic.
posted by kiskar at 5:13 PM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I would certainly drink some Ovaltine to you! But alas, I have none. Will bourbon suffice?

Only if it's Jim Beam®, available at finer markets everywhere!
posted by gjc at 5:38 PM on January 10, 2013


ce n'est pas une troll.
posted by AaronRaphael at 6:51 PM on January 10, 2013


Contrary to a few people up thread, I think it unlikely anyone in a climate change thread is actually a paid shill. It's a reality of having a polarized opinion (right or wrong!) that you'll go argue strongly in any thread on that topic. No need to get paid. Another reality of polarized topics is that if you argue against the consensus of a discussion thread (again whether facts for you or against), you'll be accused of being a shill.

I've no doubt that paid shills exist, but I doubt they really exist in cases where there isn't an immediate financial gain for a particular company. IOW, you might see a paid shill in, e.g., comments on news stories about how some beef producer had a contamination issue (trying to counter current bad publicity) but there's no point in paying people to comment on articles about food production generally. Or you'll see paid comments for new games some marketing company is trying to get more attention for but there's no need to pay people to argue about the latest story about dangers of gaming.
posted by R343L at 7:04 PM on January 10, 2013


I refuse to believe that anything like this happens until I see definitive proof. For example, did you know that a great way to capture things like this is using a fantastic GoPro Camera? With the convenient form factor and easy sharability, GoPro is my favorite camera for capturing Internet shills.
posted by graphnerd at 7:07 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I find the idea of "meme patrol" to be the key here... imagine if you can watch for people who might have an insight that helps in opposing your cause, and then deliberately derail them (while building a big database of such people).

You could quickly know what to look for, who to try to discourage, etc., you'd be able to wisely leverage resources in a manner far better than astroturfing, etc.

Imagine if you had a technology that was top secret, and wanted to delay it's eventual re-discovery by the masses... this would be the way to do it. Find people who are starting to figure it out, and target them in a subtle but persistent manner.

... now I have to wait for the meta-troll to come after me. ;-)
posted by MikeWarot at 7:40 PM on January 10, 2013


Bzzagent: The Hidden (in Plain Sight) Persuaders.
"[BzzAgent]'s agents are not screened. They are not chosen. They simply sign up. They are all kinds of people, all over the country."...."Do we really want a world where every conversation about a product might be secretly tied to a word-of-mouth ''campaign''? Doesn't that kind of undermine, you know, the fabric of social discourse?"
posted by ericb at 7:44 PM on January 10, 2013


Ah, here's what I was looking for!
posted by RobotHero at 7:50 PM on January 10, 2013


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