What do Astroturf and the Canadian tar sands have in common? They're both made of petroleum, and now they've both got fake grassroots. An employee of the American Petroleum Institute, which supports the Keystone XL tar-sands pipeline, has apparently been setting up multiple fake Twitter accounts to give the illusion of public support.
Brant Olson at the Rainforest Action Network's blog has investigated the accounts, which all popped up abruptly on the #tarsands hashtag:
[F]ourteen of those accounts are clearly fake. The simultaneous posts were all sent via the “Netvibes Official Widget” that allows users to post to multiple Twitter accounts at the same time. All fourteen accounts were established in the same week in July, most on the same day. Each of their avatars appear to have been pulled from the web. One was pulled from NebraskaDUILawyers.com. All use variations on very simple names (jimjohnson16, richhoward1) and have very similar “everyperson” type descriptions (“Environmentally and economically concerned citizen looking for real facts. We need to make wise choices in during these uncertain times [sic]“), and all tend to retweet one another, bombard journalists with favorable opinions on the KeystoneXL pipeline, and generally cheerlead for tar sands.
It gets weirder from there, so check out Brant's post to follow his connecting of the dots — he says they lead back to a former senator who now works for API.