After hours of research you decide to post a comment on an article you read on the Internet. A few seconds after your comment appears, replies flood in refuting your position:
“All your facts are wrong. Grow up, jerk.”
“Clueless comment from dope!”
“Keep you uninformed delusions to yourself!
Sometimes, these tirades continue against comment for hours, even days. Confused, I had no idea where these tirades originated until I read this report from US Right to Know:
Biotech giant Monsanto is being accused of hiring, through third parties, an army of Internet trolls to counter negative comments, while citing positive “ghost-written” pseudo-scientific reports which downplay the potential risks of their products.
In March, a judge ruled, despite Monsanto’s objections, that the documents obtained by the plaintiffs could be released.
One document released alleged that:
Monsanto even started the aptly-named ‘Let Nothing Go’ program to leave nothing, not even Facebook comments, unanswered; through a series of third parties, it employs individuals who appear to have no connection to the industry, who in turn post positive comments on news articles and Facebook posts, defending Monsanto, its chemicals, and GMOs.
Plaintiffs alleged the company “quietly funnels money to ‘think tanks’ such as the ‘Genetic Literacy Project’ and the ‘American Council on Science and Health”– organizations intended to shame scientists and highlight information helpful to Monsanto and other chemical producers.”
Documentation also included emails, allegedly written by some Monsanto executives, instructing the staff to “ghost-write” articles and then have some “independent scientists” just sign their names under the “study” in order to reduce costs.
Apparently, even the government pays for trolls, or at least in Canada, according to this report from The Canadian Press::
The next time you post an opinion in an online forum or a Facebook group message board, don’t be surprised if you get a rebuttal from a federal employee. The government is looking for ways to monitor online chatter about political issues and correct what it perceives as misinformation.
The move started recently with a pilot project on the East Coast seal hunt. A Toronto-based company called Social Media Group has been hired to help counter some information put forward by the anti-sealing movement. The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade has paid the firm $75,000 “to monitor social activity and help identify … areas where misinformation is being presented and repeated as fact,” Simone MacAndrew, a department spokesperson, said in an email.
The firm alerts the government to questionable online comments and then employees in Foreign Affairs or the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, who have recently been trained in online posting, point the authors to information the government considers more accurate.
Of course, there are always the Russians, as Huffington Post explained recently:
Senate intelligence committee leaders have received reports that Russia hired at least 1,000 trolls to spread fake news stories to hurt Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton during the presidential election.
“What really concerns me [are reports] there were upwards of 1,000 paid internet trolls working out of a facility in Russia, in effect taking over a series of computers which are then called botnets that can generate news down to specific areas,” said Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee. He appeared Wednesday with GOP intel chair Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) at a press conference before committee hearings began.
Even when judging public opinion – don’t believe everything you read, and always “follow the money.”