I hate astroturfing. Astroturfing, for those that do not know, is an act of media manipulation where a party tries to stimulate a grass-roots community response. Usually by dropping hints in the ears of people respected in the community about a given topic or trying to steer conversations in forums with sock-puppet forum posts. I believe someone is trying to astroturf me, but I cannot discuss the issue without mentioning the topic the astroturfer wanted me to post about. After much thought, I decided to post the astroturfed topic with the following disclaimer: I want to make it very clear that this information came from a source I believe has an agenda hostile to Battlefoam. The issue is a similarity between a Battlefoam website and a paintball website.
I do not buy or use miniature transport cases, so I have no personal interest in the Battlefoam v. Outrider case. It is just a noteworthy legal issue in the gaming community, so I write about it. I bear no particular malice or even interest toward either party. I have more important things to do with my life than fret over the behavior of some game accessory makers. I really strive for fair and accurate information when reporting business or legal issues (see my rant posts for my opinion) on Livingdice. For as much as I do not care, I know some people do care and bear real malice towards Battlefoam. I had to shut off comments to extinguish flame wars that rarely break out on LD. Apparently one of these zealots decided to take action using my site as a weapon, so on to the astroturfing!
Two days ago, I received an email from “Mark” through the LD contact form informing me of a similarity between two web sites. One is the new Battlefoambrigade.com website and something called “Special Ops Brigdade,” a site for paintball enthusiasts. I took a look and they indeed did look similar, but so do many web sites, so I did not consider it newsworthy. Here is a side-by-side image of the two sites to save you some time.
Though I thought it a trivial issue, someone believed it worthy of my attention and tried very hard to interest me in the topic.
A day passes and I get another email from someone named “Doug” about the same issue and a link to a Special Ops forum discussion. (Update: the forum is no longer available, not sure why.) I took a look at the forum and noted the first poster was a new forum member with only a single post to his name. At this point, I grew suspicious. I smelled an astroturfing attempt.
A quick check of the two IP addresses provided by my contact form revealed both initial emails came from the same general location (a town north of Atlanta, Georgia). I also responded to both emails and they bounced as invalid.
Do I have direct rock-solid proof of astroturfing? No, but there is enough evidence for me to believe there is and since it is my site, that is enough.
So, I have a message for potential astroturfers out there seeking to use Livingdice.com as a forum for your propaganda. Keep your petty flame wars on the forums. I want no part of it. Oh, and go straight to hell.
Trask, The Last Tyromancer