Accusing someone of being a paid shill of a mega-corporations or the government is usually the domain of the konspiracy theorist. However, the practice of being a paid shill is more common than many believe.
Take for example British Petroleum.
The oil firm hired the international PR company Ogilvy & Mather to run the BP America Facebook page during the oil disaster, which released at least 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf in what is to date the single largest environmental disaster in US history.
The page was meant to encourage interaction with BP, but when people posted comments that were critical of how BP was handling the crisis, they were often attacked, bullied, and sometimes directly threatened.
Threats included identifying where somebody lived, an internet troll making reference to having a shotgun and making use of it, and "others just being more derogatory", according to Devine. "We've seen all this documentation and that's why we thought it was worth bringing to the ombudsman's office of BP, and we told them we thought some of it even warranted calling the police about."I don't know how much an internet troll gets paid, but it's rumored to be good.
Taiwan's Fair Trade Commission has fined Samsung 10m New Taiwan Dollars ($340,510) after the South Korean giant hired an army of commentards to diss the handsets of rival HTC and praise its own smartphones.In a much less surprising example, Fox News staffers have trolled anonymously with fake accounts.
Fox PR staffers were expected to counter not just negative and even neutral blog postings but the anti-Fox comments beneath them. One former staffer recalled using twenty different aliases to post pro-Fox rants. Another had one hundred. Several employees had to acquire a cell phone thumb drive to provide a wireless broadband connection that could not be traced back to a Fox News or News Corp account.Of course all this pales in comparison to the primary employer of trolls on the internet - governments.
The US military is developing software that will let it secretly manipulate social media sites by using fake online personas to influence internet conversations and spread pro-American propaganda....
Centcom spokesman Commander Bill Speaks said: "The technology supports classified blogging activities on foreign-language websites to enable Centcom to counter violent extremist and enemy propaganda outside the US."
The moral to this story? Don't trust anything you read on the internet. Verify. Verify. Verify.