Murray Dick

Astroturfing in online comment: An investigation

This paper investigates 'astroturfing' (the creation of armies of 'sockpuppet' personae towards influencing public opinion) in online news comments. Concerns about this practice and its potential impact on public discourse have been voiced in the press, and across a range of disciplines; but it has been little studied in communications and journalism studies. How is online 'astroturfing' in contemporary online news and current affairs defined (operationally); how is it experienced, and what can be done to mitigate it? Given the difficulties attendant to normatively defining astroturfing, discussion shifts to how alternative frameworks in journalism ethics may help journalists challenge this new phenomenon

Keywords: astroturfing, journalism ethics, online comments, online journalism, propaganda, user generated content


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Note on the contributor

Dr Murray Dick lectures in multimedia journalism at Newcastle University. His teaching and research are concerned with challenging the conventional way in which journalism is often understood within the academy; compromised between vocational and liberal arts approaches. His current research interests include online journalism and visual data, data journalism (infographics), and journalism ethics, pedagogy and histories.