Battlefoam Brigade and Special Ops Brigade Website Similarities–A Concerted Attempt at Astroturfing

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

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trask

Trask is a long-time gamer, world traveler and history buff. He hopes that his scribblings will both inform and advance gaming as a hobby.

2 thoughts on “Battlefoam Brigade and Special Ops Brigade Website Similarities–A Concerted Attempt at Astroturfing

  • September 5, 2010 at 2:03 pm
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    IIRC, when the BF fansite was announced on DakkaDakka about a month or so ago it was mentioned that they had gotten the same coder as the paintball/airsoft website to do theirs, and that he basically just reskinned it.

    • September 6, 2010 at 6:16 am
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      if only the coder changed the texts… they are exactly the same and it looks silly one next to the other… I suspected that was the case, but it should be more personalized, at least from a PR point of view, they are trying to sell a community service, catered to wargamers with a standarized discourse…

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