|Topic 4| Reflection #MANG2049


I am glad we finally got a topic that allows us to explore and concentrate on different issues from each other!

I feel that with regards to privacy, misuse of personal data as raised by Zaidhan’s post and YongYou in his video as well as identify thefts are the most prevalent and harmful issues with regards to social media ethics. Dayna raised the problem of identity theft in a Human Resource(HR) recruitment perspective. I did not think of this and it really roused my interest because it is simply misguided for someone to be judged by a profile that does not even belong to them, especially when it may cost them a job.

Lee Gin’s post introduced me to the concept of A/B testing on Facebook which I personally found was interesting, but not as unethical as it may seem. Indeed, it may seem unethical to be subjects of experiments without our consent, but are we not facing this manipulation with the bombardment of advertising and marketing efforts everyday?

Jeremiah shared the same thoughts with me on the use of fake reviews and astroturfing by businesses. These practices mislead consumers and take advantage of consumers’ trust and are definitely unethical. Zoey and Charissa also provided examples of how bloggers, who have huge followings, treads on this issue too.

While many of us were focused on the unethical issues regarding the business use of social media, Elvina raised the issues on how the education scene may be affected as well. With the extensive use of social media in education today, the line of distinction between the personal and academic lives of students is often blurred. However I feel that teachers are the ones who have to suffer more from the unethical use of social media, as seen in the case of Yik Yak that went viral among colleges.

While social media is an extremely useful tool as we have discussed over the past topics, it does bring about plenty of ethical issues with it. There may be laws created to help protect certain groups of people from these poor ethics, but the truth is majority of the time we can only learn to deal with it. Ultimately, web users are the ones responsible for our own actions so it is up to all of us to practice proper social media and online etiquettes in order to maintain good ethics.

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Lee Gin



|Topic 4|Stop Astroturfing! #MANG2049

Topic 4.jpg

My focus today will be on an ethical issue revolving around the business use of social media – Astroturfing.

What is Astroturfing?

It is the creation of a fake review by a company that a reasonable consumer will believe to be by another real consumer. Businesses usually astroturf through their own employees or relatives by asking them to provide biased reviews in attempts to improve their online reputation. (Kevin, 2014)

How is it done?

Making use of the Internet’s anonymity, firms create bogus reviews or accounts to falsely praise a company or defame another. The video below provides some examples.


(Video by me -PowToon, Information from here)

With advertising quickly moving on from traditional mediums to online platforms, there is increasing need for companies to develop positive online reputations and some may resort to unethical means when normal efforts are unsatisfactory.

In 2013, Taiwan’s Fair Trade Commission fined Samsung $340,000 for astroturfing. Samsung was claimed to have paid two marketing firms to hire people to accentuate the flaws of their competitors’ products as well as disinfect negative reviews and post positive reviews about Samsung products. (Mike, 2013)

Why is astroturfing unethical?

We as consumers often rely on reviews on make our purchasing decisions as shown in this study by Nielsen.  I personally am very dependent on Facebook, Instagram and other online forums for reviews and I would hate to know that I have been deceived into believing otherwise about the company! In fact, this can be considered as a form of false advertising which can be prosecuted under several consumer protection laws(Bigcommerce, 2016) as well as by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Act.

This is a problem because a Gartner report predicts that 10-15% of all social media “reviews” will be fake opinions paid by companies by 2014. Not only will astroturfing cause consumers to believe fake opinions, it may also cause consumers to doubt real opinions!

Here is a video by FTC that shows how online reviews and recommendations may be manipulated behind the scenes.

Unintentional astroturfing?

In some cases, some companies may not be aware that they are guilty of astroturfing. The infographic below shows some tips on preventing your company from getting into legal trouble.

INFOGRAPH.jpeg(Infographic created by me, Information from here)

Social media is a great business tool only if it is used in an ethical and appropriate manner. Do not try to astroturf. Once you get caught, you will have to say goodbye to your customer loyalty and reputation!

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Kevin Kent, 17 June 2014, Review Trackers, The Legal Risks of Writing Positive Fake Reviews: Don’t Astroturf Your Online Business Reputation, http://www.reviewtrackers.com/legal-risks-writing-positive-fake-astroturf-online-business-reputation/, [Accessed on 11 November 2016]

Mike Elgan, 26 October 2013, Are online comments full of paid lies?, http://www.computerworld.com/article/2485252/social-media/are-online-comments-full-of-paid-lies-.html, [Accessed on 11 November 2016]

Nielsen, 4 October 2012, Consumer Trust in Online, Social and Mobile Advertising Grows, http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/news/2012/consumer-trust-in-online-social-and-mobile-advertising-grows.html, [Accessed on 11 November 2016]

Bigcommerce, 3 Feburary 2016, What is astroturfing, and why your business should avoid it, https://www.bigcommerce.com/ecommerce-answers/what-is-astroturfing/, [Accessed on 11 November 2016]

Kyle-Beth Hilfer, 24 August 2015, Why Astroturfing and Fake Online Reviews Are Illegal, http://maximizesocialbusiness.com/astroturfing-fake-online-reviews-illegal-9985/#, [Accessed on 11 November 2016]