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What's up with those anti-Net Neutrality cartoons?

August 29, 2006

1 Min Read
Astroturf, Anyone?

12:40 PM -- I'm just catching up on the whole "astroturf" thing.

What's astroturf -- other than the fake grass you find in 1970s-era sports stadiums? It's the new spam. It's wonk-jargon for faux grass-roots organizations that are being created to blog and push a specific agenda on the Internet. Here's what's "faux" about it: The medium might appear folksy and championed "by the people," but in actuality it's backed by powerful corporate lobbyists.

Astroturf has become a big, big deal among telecom lobbyists.

One prime example: Hands off the Internet, a lobbying organization currently sporting a populist Website filled with bloggers explaining how Net Neutrality is fundamentally evil.

Hands Off the Internet advertises itself as "a nationwide coalition of Internet users." But flip to the "Members page," and you find that backers include Alcatel (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA), AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), BellSouth Corp. (NYSE: BLS), and Cingular Wireless . Well, they are "Internet users." The power of the little guy!

You may have also seen another big product of astroturf, that panicky cartoon on Net Neutrality that can be found at dontregulate.org.

More details on astroturfing were recently unveiled by Common Cause, an organization (maybe Astroturf itself?) that has issued a report on the trend.

— R. Scott Raynovich, Editor in Chief, Light Reading

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