Taiwan’s Fair Trade Commission this week fined Korean conglomerate Samsung $340,000 for “astroturfing.”
Specifically, the Taiwanese FTC said Samsung paid two “marketing firms” more than $100,000 to hire people to “highlight the shortcomings of competing products,” engage in the “disinfection of negative news about Samsung products,” positively review Samsung products and, (in a bizarre turn of phrase), do “palindromic Samsung product marketing,” whatever that means.
Wait, what’s ‘astroturfing’?
Samsung was fined for paying a “large number of hired writers and designated employees” to post comments in online forums praising Samsung and criticizing competitors.
Astroturf is a brand of fake grass; “astroturfing” is a reference to a fake “grass-roots” movement.
The practice of astroturfing has a long and sordid history. The term was coined by U.S. Sen. Lloyd Bentsen of Texas in 1985, referring to a letter-writing campaign orchestrated by the insurance industry. In fact, astroturfing has been a major tool of political dirty tricks since the Roman empire.