The practice of marketing companies paying armies of people to post misleading, false information on blogs, forums and social sites is expanding globally.

While the practice can be used to post fake positive reviews for pay, for example, more often these paid posts are intended to destroy competition. I’ve been getting unsolicited calls from companies looking to hire people to do “SEO work” where the work consists of signing up for fake accounts and posting fake testimonials or comments, depending on what you’re paid to write. It’s become part of the “work from home” industry.

I found an article on how China is going gangbusters with what is called the “Internet Water Army”. According to an article in TechnologyReview called Undercover Researchers Expose Chinese Internet Water Army, “Paid posting is a well-managed activity involving thousands of individuals and tens of thousands of different online IDs.”

Another article I found refers to the practice as “cyber warfare”. This is different then spam drivel appearing in a blog’s spam pile. These people are paid to be deceptive. The article about China above reveals how someone went undercover to learn all he could about the various ways in which companies pay for biased and misleading content. He developed software to spot the behavior and methods used for this type of paid content delivery.

The article claims:

[box] Paid posting is a well-managed activity involving thousands of individuals and tens of thousands of different online IDs. The posters are usually given a task to register on a website and then to start generating content in the form of posts, articles, links to websites and videos, even carrying out Q&A sessions. Often, this content is pre-prepared or the posters receive detailed instructions on the type of things they can say. [/box]

Clearly some companies are desperate enough to pay for dishonest information by purposely conning the buying and reading public.  How can you spot these paid bozos?  In forums, they tend to post often, start a discussion and than move on without any investment in the topic.  They use templates and cut and paste the same content, often sticking it in places that don’t make logical sense.  They leave comments but don’t respond to comments on their comments.

As always, when reading user generated content, use your head.  Get many opinions.  If something doesn’t seem credible, it likely isn’t.

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Kim Krause Berg’s long background in web design, SEO and usability includes software application functional and user interface testing, accessibility, information architecture and persuasive design. She shared her passion for Usability and SEO through her site and private consulting at Cre8pc for 17 years. Kim founded Cre8asiteforums in 1998. In the fall of 2012 she sold her forums to Internet Marketing Ninjas and retired from private consulting to join their Executive Management team where she continues her work in usability testing, customer experience and conversions design.

My Online Course: Web Site Usability 101


American Society for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T)

Information Architecture Institute

Usability Professionals Association (UPA)