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Concept.png Astroturfing 
(Statecraft,  propaganda)Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
Interest ofHBGary
Rolling out of fake grassroots movements

Astroturfing is the use of a fake grassroots organisation to make others believe that a broad concensus of support exists for a desired policy agenda. It may or may not have developed in the field of advertising, but it can serve as a tool to anyone with enough founding to get their own message across (smaller agendas with the help of social media and sock puppet accounts will not even cost much).

Astroturf in a nutshell, according to Sharyl Attkisson, is:

"to try to convince you there’s widespread support for or against an agenda when there’s not."[1]

Identifying which is an original viewpoint and what is not can get difficult when there is to much interference involved.


Astroturf and manipulation of media messages
TEDx University of Nevada

An appropriate example for astroturfing in science is the effort to push for the acceptance of Water/Fluoridation in the early 20th century, for which the Kettering Laboratory, the University of Rochester and the Mellon Institute were instrumental to deliver the message that fluoridation does have health benefits and no risks.

Foundation funding

Full article: Foundation funding

While not as direct as building up an organization that serves to specifically promote a standpoint, foundation funding can in a way have a similar effect on a grander scale over a longer period of time.

In 2022 Katri Bertram, a consultant in global health, wrote an essay on how the Gates Foundation had taken over the sector:

“At some point, I realised something that I at first found to be a coincidence, then amusing, then slightly uncomfortable, and later on worrying. No matter where I worked, whether NGO, consultant, or international organisation, I was paid by one global health donor...I'm not saying that there is no independence in the global health sector...What I’m saying is that my own experience was that I realised at some point (naively, and very late) that I was not one of these people. If there’s one thing I’d like to tell my 20-year old self, it’s this: ask who pays for your job. And then keep your eye on this throughout your career. At least be aware of this. Twenty years later, I’m tired of being an astroturfer. I’m tired of calling myself an independent consultant or claim that I’m working for an independent NGO or organisation when I now know that’s neither true, and increasingly also not the direction I think global health should take.”
Katri Bertram (16 September 2022)  [2]

Selected Examples

An example for a foundation that offers funding to help to create movements or public support that would otherwise may not be as substantial or noticeable is the Open Society Foundation.

Technical solutions

In 2011 it was reported that HBGary Federal was contracted by the US government to develop astroturfing software which could create an "army" of multiple fake social media profiles.[3][4]



Page nameDescription
38 DegreesBritish Avaaz.
Center for Medicine in the Public Interest"nonprofit, non-partisan" big pharma astroturf
Conservative Inc."Big Con enforce the guidelines of Big Tech and punish conservatives on their behalf"
Patriot FrontAmerican white nationalist group that bears many hallmarks of an FBI entrapment operation, setting the stage for a false flag terrorism event
Sock puppetA person or online persona whose actions are controlled by somebody else.


Related Document

TitleTypePublication dateAuthor(s)Description
Document:Not All Propaganda is EqualArticle30 May 2012Barrett Brown


An official example

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