Astroturfing is evil. Astroturfing is always unethical and usually illegal. It corrodes democracy which relies on transparency. It is usually undertaken by people who are afraid, or lack the skills, to engage in open and honest public debates.
Sometimes it is excused because the other side (NGOs and activists) are unreasonable or claim to represent more people than they really do. That excuse doesn't cut it.
Astroturfing is a blight on the PR profession.
Although it is officially against everyone's code of ethics, peak bodies like the PRIA too often seem to turn a blind eye.
It was also disturbing to read via Paull Young's post an account of a seminar that the PRIA actively participated in and which also included government representatives. This seminar sounded too much like a 'how-to' guide for budding astro-turfers to simply ignore.
Its a bit lame for the PRIA simply to say in response that we need to hear all points of view.
Paull Young's blog post this week brought home the disgrace of this ineffectual approach to me once again.
So why not use the power of blogging to campaign on this issue and to at least make people aware of what's so bad about astroturfing and why good PR people need to take a stand against it?
Paull has created a page on the newPR wiki which tells you all about astroturfing, this campaign, and what you can do to help.
He and Erin Caldwell have also created the button on this post and on the sidebar that you can use to identify yourself and your agency as an astroturf free zone.
Hope you'll have a look at the anti-astroturfing campaign wiki page and get on-board.
Let's have conversations between people who really exist!