The internet is astroturfed

Absolutely hilarious to see Amazon tying itself into knots over the sock puppetry issue. I blogged recently about Amazon’s silence on the subject and this would seem to be a classic example of how a secretive, arrogant, unaccountable and monolithic organisation mishandles its PR. It is of course an unresolvable problem. The internet’s promise to ‘cut out the middle man’ and offer a direct interface between producer and consumer – be that handbags or novels looks evermore flawed and delusional. Not least because it requires that consumers swallow the lie that Google (or Amazon) are not middlemen but disinterested enablers of the flow of information. But even if they were, which they most certainly are not, this issue goes to the very heart of the internet’s problem as a commercial tool, which is that the crowd can be bought (or faked) and that companies that were once spending their advertising budget on billboards and TV advertising are now spending that money on astroturfing the internet. At least when you look at an advert you know that it is an advert. Certainly, when it comes to books, there isn’t any recommendation site out there that readers can really trust – Amazon is only really any good if you already know what you want. Which is why Amazon are taking this issue very, very seriously – they know that if someone else gains the trust of readers on the internet then their position will start to look very precarious very quickly.

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