Astroturfing

[ as-truh-turf-ing ]
/ ˈæs trəˌtɜrf ɪŋ /

noun

the act or process of installing Astroturf on a surface.
(usually lowercase) the deceptive tactic of simulating grassroots support for a product, cause, etc., undertaken by people or organizations with an interest in shaping public opinion: In some countries astroturfing is banned, and this includes sponsored blog posts.

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advocate

Origin of Astroturfing

First recorded in 1985–90; Astroturf + -ing1

OTHER WORDS FROM Astroturfing

as·tro·turf·er, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

VOCAB BUILDER

What does astroturfing mean?

Astroturfing is a slang term for the act of faking the appearance of popular support for something, such as a cause or product.

A person who does this can be called an astroturfer.

These words come from Astroturf, the trademarked brand name for a type of artificial surface used for sports fields that’s supposed to look and feel like grass. (Astroturfing can also be used to refer to the process of covering a field with Astroturf. In this case, it’s often capitalized.)

Example: One clue that orchestrated astroturfing is happening is that a lot of posts about a topic come from new accounts with usernames that look like they were randomly generated.

Where does astroturfing come from?

The first records of the word Astroturfing come from the 1980s, in reference to the brand name for artificial turf (turf is the top layer of a field or pasture, consisting of earth, grass, and roots). Astroturf was named after the stadium in Texas where it was first used—the Astrodome. (The Astrodome got its name because it’s where the Houston Astros baseball team played, and the team was named in honor of Houston being the location of the headquarters of NASA’s space program.) The first records of the slang sense of astroturfing (and the verb astroturf) come from around 2000.

The link between fake grass and fake support is in the word grassroots. Grassroots refers to the common people. A grassroots movement is one that arises from the common people, as opposed to the elite and the powerful, such as the leadership of a political party. So astroturfing is kind of a play on words. Astroturfing is the act of faking grassroots support, hence the use of a word that refers to fake grass. Usually, the goal of astroturfing is making it look like a lot of ordinary people support a cause or like a product when, in reality, that’s not the case.

How do you fake grassroots support? One popular method is to create fake social media accounts run by bots or people paid to post in a particular way. Sometimes, real bloggers or other media personalities are paid to promote a product or political position without telling their audience they’re being paid. In other cases, companies create and fund groups intended to look like public advocacy organizations. Then there’s the perhaps more old-fashioned method of paying or otherwise arranging for people to show up in person at rallies or protests that they don’t actually care about. Hint: none of this is ethical, and in some cases and in some places it’s even illegal.

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms related to astroturfing?

What are some words that share a root or word element with astroturfing

 

What are some words that often get used in discussing astroturfing?

How is astroturfing used in real life?

Astroturfing is always used negatively in criticism of such actions, especially in relation to politics and unethical marketing.

 

 

Try using astroturfing!

Is astroturfing used correctly in the following sentence? 

The candidate’s so-called ‘grassroots support’ turned out to be mostly astroturfing by Twitter bots.

British Dictionary definitions for astroturfing

astroturfing
/ (ˈæstrəʊˌtɜːfɪŋ) /

noun

a PR tactic used in politics and advertising in which actors are paid to display overt and apparently spontaneous grassroots support for a particular product, policy, or event

Derived forms of astroturfing

astroturfer, noun

Word Origin for astroturfing

C21: from Astroturf, the artificial grass, as this is artifical grassroots support
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012