"People talk about grassroots feedback but this technique is called Astroturf. That means you make it look like grass but actually you planted the plastic all over the field. Fake identities and you orchestrate a campaign".

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong
27 March 2010
Channel NewsAsia

Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on a speech over the weekend commented on the technique called “Astroturf” when the government received a couple of emails which looked as it came from a template and with identities that were found to be fake. This was in reference to the AWARE saga.

Is sending a “cut and paste” email template under a fake identity amount to astroturfing?

Many bloggers have disagree that sending an email template with a fake identity is not astroturfing but if you take a look at the history, there might be some truth to the words used by the Prime Minister, but was it taken out of context?

According to SourceWatch.org,

Campaigns & Elections magazine defines astroturf as a "grassroots program that involves the instant manufacturing of public support for a point of view in which either uninformed activists are recruited or means of deception are used to recruit them.

Wikipedia credits US Senator Lloyd Bensten for coining the term.

Wrote Wikipedia.com

US Senator Lloyd Bentsen, believed to have coined the term, was quoted by the Washington Post in 1985 using it to describe a "mountain of cards and letters" sent to his Senate office to promote insurance industry interests, which Bentsen dismissed as "generated mail”.

So if you take “generated mail” and replace it for generated email, this is a reason for calling the generated email as generated mail.

For example, “in 2001, the Los Angeles Times accused Microsoft of astroturfing when hundreds of similar letters were sent to newspapers voicing disagreement with the United States Department of Justice and its antitrust suit against Microsoft,” wrote Wikipedia. “The letters, prepared by Americans for Technology Leadership, had in some cases been delivered via a mailing list to deceased people or incorrect addresses, where the recipients forwarded them without correction.”

Maybe with the online media, it is inevitable that Astroturffing has landed in Singapore.

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