As I suggested recently in an editorial I wrote for Talent Zoo, astroturfing (the act of faking a grassroots campaign or consumer endorsement), is not only unethical, but increasingly, illegal, and more legislation is certain to come. We didn’t have to wait long. Action News 36 WTVQ, in Lexington, KY, reports:
“Kentucky Representative Tim Couch filed a bill this week to make anonymous posting online illegal. The bill would require anyone who contributes to a website to register their real name, address and e-mail address with that site. Their full name would be used anytime a comment is posted.
If the bill becomes law, the website operator would have to pay if someone was allowed to post anonymously on their site. The fine would be five-hundred dollars for a first offense and one-thousand dollars for each offense after that.”
The European Union’s Unfair Commercial Practices Directive (PDF), enacted in May, 2005, already bars companies from “falsely claiming or creating the impression that the trader is not acting for purposes relating to his trade, business, craft or profession, or falsely representing oneself as a consumer” which could certainly seem to cover astroturfing and other social media sins.
The report also notes Couch quite astutely admits enforcement of such a law is difficult. Remember all of the promising legislation banning spam?