Maddow on Virtual Astroturfing Via Facebook Games

On Friday’s show, Rachel Maddow did a segment on some shady anti-health care reform activism going on in some free-to-play Facebook games and other places on the web:

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Transcript available here (of the full show: do a find for “Mafia Wars” and you’ll be at the right segment).

Choice quotes for you TL;DR’ers:

Advertisers will give you virtual money to spend in mafia wars or other games in exchange for stuff like trying their products or clicking through their endless intrusive surveys.

One blunt way to look at this is that gamers are being bribed with things that they want in the online world in order to provide stuff that‘s valuable in the real world to advertisers—or to people who want to stop health reform? Yes. The Web site Business Insider is now reporting that bribing people with virtual currency, like the fake gaming mafia money, it‘s being used by the health insurance industry as a way to generate letters of opposition to health reform.

Online ads promising free virtual currency, redirect gamers to a Web site called To get the mafia money, people fill out a survey that automatically sends an e-mail to their member of Congress, which reads in part, quote, “I‘m concerned a new government plan could cost me to lose the employer coverage I have today.”

Who‘s behind Well, it‘s a coalition of 10 insurance industry groups, including the Association of Health Insurance Advisers, America‘s Health Insurance Plans, American Benefits Council, BlueCross BlueShield Association—you get the idea.

This tactic just seems sort of laughably desperate to me, but then again Mafia Wars and other Facebook games have a ton of players. What do you all think?

About Alex

Alex posts some of her sewing projects and cosplays on her Tumblr; you can also find her babbling about sewing and games and Parks and Recreation on Twitter.
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8 Responses to Maddow on Virtual Astroturfing Via Facebook Games

  1. Zahra says:

    What I think? Yuck! These games are enlisting their players in political positions that they may not endorse and, at the same time, artificially augment the number of protests to the health reform. It may seem laughably desperate, but it also may more be efficient than we think.

  2. Lake Desire says:

    How many Facebook gamers actually have employer sponsored health care, anyway?

  3. Mantheos says:

    I am actually impressed that she knows the game she is discussing. I’m not saying that out of gamer or male elitism. I am saying that simply based off of the fact that the press usually does a horrible job researching and doing stories on videogames. Does this ring any bells?

    As for the issue being discussed, I do not like this tactic at all because it can trick someone into supporting a political cause he or she does not believe in, and it could be too late before they realize that.

    I’m also wondering what would happen if political causes expanded upon this and offered Microsoft Points or gold in WoW for filling out their surveys?

    • Mantheos says:

      I am probably going to be attacked for the way I sounded in my comment. If I came off as snooty, I didn’t mean to sound that way. I sincerely am glad that Maddow actually researched the game she was reporting on. I’ve seen plenty of news stories with a lack of research. That’s all I was saying.

      • Alex says:

        I got you, news people in general DO have a tendency to not even do basic research when it comes to reporting on games. But Rachel Maddow knows her shit =) I like that she always asks her interviewees if she got everything right in her background explanations, it gives the person a chance to make a correction if she does happen to mess up.

        • Mantheos says:

          That’s good to hear. I take it she’s your favorite journalist? I haven’t watched MSNBC, FOX, or CNN in a long time. Each did something (or a bunch of things) that made me say, “I will not watch this anymore.”

          MSNBC, Maddow included, crossed the line for me when they made a ton of teabagging jokes about the Tea Party protests. Regardless of whether or not you agree with their views, mocking a protest with sex jokes is an unprofessional thing for a news agency to do. You can probably guess what Fox has done to piss me off. ;)

          Do you think I should give the mainstream news another try?

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