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BizReport : Law & Regulation : February 12, 2007

European Union to put a ban on fake blogs and reviews

The European Union is working toward the eradication of “astroturfing”, with a ban due at the end of the year.

by Helen Leggatt

If you haven’t already added “astroturfing” to your online marketing toolbox, then it’s probably not worth bothering. The controversial practice, so-called for it’s faking of grassroots support for a product or service, is soon to be outlawed throughout Europe. It manifests itself in such areas as product reviews and website guestbook/feedback sections where the business owner, or paid writers, represent themselves as reviewers.

“A recent investigation found that poorly rated travel establishments could lift their reputations from one to four stars in hours by posting fictional positive reviews,” reports The Times, adding that a string of businessmen in the U.S. and U.K. have been caught falsely representing themselves as independent customers to promote goods and services.

The ban may even extend to such activity as unsigned bands “orchestrating” an online marketing campaign on YouTube or a writer self-promoting their work on Amazon.

How this is to be policed isn’t clear, and one would assume that negative reviews and posts will be as closely monitored.

Whether or not the payment of reviewers to give “manufactured” online reviews is good practice is a moot point. Afterall, celebrities have, for decades, been promoting goods and services in exchange for cash.

Tags: astroturfing, Europe, paid blogging, phony blogs

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