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« Costs exceed benefits | Main | Lindzen vs Hasan »

Organised astroturfing

Barry Woods alerts us to Al Gore's organised astroturfing organisation, in which people are encouraged to copy text from the Reality Drop website and paste it into climate-related comments threads.



George Monbiot has been very vocal against this sort of thing. It will be interesting to see how he responds, particularly since the Guardian's own pages are being targeted.

Incidentally, the Met Office are thanked on Reality Drop's "About" page. I wonder what their involvement is?

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Reader Comments (119)

I'm not sure it's entirely wise to have the name Al Gore publicly associated with such a thing.

it is something of a tainted brand.

Mar 5, 2013 at 1:19 PM | Unregistered Commentercosmic

Can't think of a better way to utterly discredit any warmist comment. Really not fair to honest believers however deluded they are.

Mar 5, 2013 at 1:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterBernal

I have written to the Met Office to ask for an explanation

Mar 5, 2013 at 1:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaul Dennis

Someone needs to FOI how much the Met Office's help to 'Climate Drop is costing the British taxpayer. How many people are involved? How much of their time? Etc.

On the face of it, it seems absolutely scandalous that they are within a million miles of this organization.

Mar 5, 2013 at 1:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterTaylor

How long before this system gets "gamed" to point to skeptical sites.

Mar 5, 2013 at 1:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterMorph

I have emailed the Met Office press office for details of what their involvement is.

Mar 5, 2013 at 1:57 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Well at least for once the Progressives PR is not being handled by Fenton Communications, in this case some yankee-doodlers called Arnold worldwide

Mar 5, 2013 at 2:04 PM | Unregistered Commenterbill

So... Why don't we all make a bit of an effort to "drop" randomly-selected "facts" from this website into as many "warmist" site discussions as possible? If nothing else it'll give the moderators a load of work and might lead to pressure on "Reality Drop" to pack it in. :-)

Mar 5, 2013 at 2:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterPogo

The details of the backroom deals are in the sskepticalscience tree hut logs. They felt strongly that the Al Gore brand would be toxic, but were very attracted to the prospect of working with him for the publicity he would bring. Cynical to the bone.

Mar 5, 2013 at 2:13 PM | Registered Commentershub

Arnold Worldwide appears to represent a whole slew of "progressive" causes.

From their website:

We are: storytellers, artists, musicians, filmmakers, designers, technophiles, producers, social media mavens, thinkers, dreamers, marketers. In other words, people who love to make stuff.

They're missing one word in that lest sentence. That sentence should end with "up".

Seriously: this is extraordinarily cynical and manipulative, hence it fits right in with Gore et al. Duh.

Mar 5, 2013 at 2:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn F. Opie

"George Monbiot has been very vocal against this sort of thing"

Has he renounced CaCC, then - or is that somehow different..?

Mar 5, 2013 at 2:34 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

This Washington Time article has at least a dozen Reality Drops....

I've responded to some.. I wonder what the Washington Times makes of it...

At least one reader at the Guardian noticed something odd going on...

I explained...

Al Gore activists just cutting and pasting this..

Mar 5, 2013 at 2:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

They are missing three words from the first sentence, as well: scientists, mathematicians, engineers.

Mar 5, 2013 at 2:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid S

I daresay that 'identical comments' could start appearing, despite the site asking participants in this scheme to take the chunks provided and re-write them in their own words. There could be a botanical-style hobby emerging for some to see what kind of variants emerge and in which environments, with train-spotter points also to be won from locating unblemished replicates of the original species. Prizes could also be offered for particularly eccentric re-writes found.

Mar 5, 2013 at 2:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Shade


Isn't CaCC about organising supporters to join in the comments to various pieces?

This appears to issue boiler plate to cut and paste. I can see that having standard text popping up all over the place, contributed by people who plainly haven't got a clue, or they wouldn't need boiler plate, is likely to backfire.

Mar 5, 2013 at 2:49 PM | Unregistered Commentercosmic

The bozos don't even need to read or think about an article. Al Gore's crew provides the pre-digested soundbite to "drop" (spam) into comment threads.

What a crock. Even sympathetic sources have to wonder if bombarding comment sections with identical spammy comments is going to impress anyone favorably.

Reality Drop is SPAM

As you can see in the comments section of the Businessweek article, Reality Drop users are eagerly copying and pasting the supplied talking point. The result: It looks like a bunch of spammers took over the comments. Out of 9 comments (at the time of writing), five say, "The worst thing we can do for our economy is sit back and do nothing about climate change."

Is gathering people en masse to parrot talking points really effective? If a bunch of climate deniers did the same thing, it’s doubtful that Reality Drop proponents would let it sway them. And if those climate deniers pasted in the same quote over and over, on-the-fence readers probably wouldn’t pay attention either. It would make a difference if Reality Drop users spent a couple minutes writing original comments, but that doesn’t seem to be what’s happening. The site is still young, of course, so things could change.

Mar 5, 2013 at 2:51 PM | Registered CommenterSkiphil

I nominate Barry Wood as the first winner of the 'Ace Spotter of Gore's Droppings' award.

Mar 5, 2013 at 2:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Shade

they will probably just get bored of the comments being pasted on RC and the like and stop it when they complain, not that I'm putting ideas in anyones head.

Mar 5, 2013 at 2:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterJaceF

Skiphil said it. They are asking people to spam for them. That's lazy, and probably counterproductive.

Mar 5, 2013 at 2:56 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

The BusinessWeek article mentioned at the link above now has EIGHT of 16 comments on the thread from obvious spammy Gorebots. This is funny even though pathetic:

Gorebot spam on a BusinessWeek article

Shawn • 5 days ago

The worst thing we can do for our economy is sit back and do nothing about climate change. Taxpayers paying for disaster cleanup and relief. Food prices going up because of drought. etc. etc.

JGild • 5 days ago

The worst thing we can do for our economy is sit back and do nothing about climate change.

Josh Marks • 5 days ago

The worst thing we can do for our economy is sit back and do nothing about climate change.

Aaron • 5 days ago

The worst thing we can do for our economy is sit back and do nothing about climate change.

Donna Olsen • 5 days ago

The worst thing we can do for our economy is sit back and do nothing about climate change.

Sean • 5 days ago

It will be worse for our economy in the long run to sit back and do nothing about climate change.

David Jung • 5 days ago

The worst thing we can do for humanity is to pretend there is a scientific climate change debate.

Peter Wiegand • a day ago

The worst thing we can do for a sustainable economy is sit back and do nothing about climate change.

Mar 5, 2013 at 3:01 PM | Registered CommenterSkiphil

I nominate Skiphill as the second winner of the Ace Spotter award.

The award itself is a miniature replica in bronze of a cowpat, with an outline of Al discernible in the surface patterning.

Mar 5, 2013 at 3:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Shade


It doesn't exactly create a favourable impression to have the same patter trotted out, with elegant variation, by eight people in 16 comments.

It comes across as moronic.

Mar 5, 2013 at 3:16 PM | Unregistered Commentercosmic

Anyone know anything about this lot?

Seems to be a Met Office blog for idiots.

Mar 5, 2013 at 3:23 PM | Unregistered Commentersteveta_uk

Well well - some familiar names here:

A google search for "met office" and "reality drop" has many hits on this blog, though none seem to contain actual references to RD.

Mar 5, 2013 at 3:27 PM | Registered Commentersteve ta

It is worth noting that the rebutals, being used by Reality Drop, are being prepared by Skeptical Science!!

Mar 5, 2013 at 3:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

Mar 5, 2013 at 3:27 PM steveta

I see they have the all important:-

"Creative Director & Presenter"

Also somebody is not impressed with "Our Mission":-

Mar 5, 2013 at 3:36 PM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand


"We think people deserve a clearer understanding of what’s going on with their climate. My Climate & Me is new initiative by the Met Office dedicated to explaining how climate science works. It’s your go-to resource for the latest scientific evidence surrounding climate change, straight from Met Office Climate Scientists themselves.

If you’ve got a question about a particular aspect of climate change or climate science we’d love to hear it. Fill in our online form now, and if your question proves popular in our weekly public poll you’ll find a video response posted on the site from one of our climate scientists.

Mar 5, 2013 at 3:38 PM | Registered Commentermatthu

Green Sand - he he!

Mar 5, 2013 at 3:43 PM | Registered Commentermatthu

The more I browse My Climate and Me the more shocked I get.

a. Why should the Met Offiec be involved in a pure propoganda site?

b. Why should tax payer money have anything to do with this rubbish?

c. What utter moron came up with the name? Seriously, "My Climate" ?????

d. Why would an "expert" some of us had come to beleive was serious in wanting to communicate with sceptics have anything to do with this trivia? (I think you know who I'm asking).

Mar 5, 2013 at 3:46 PM | Registered Commentersteve ta

"Al Gore's cunning plan"

I don't think Big Al does cunning - unless it involves linguists...

Mar 5, 2013 at 3:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

Green Sand

I am not sure I am with you here. What is the difference between My Climate and me and a discussion thread on Bishop-Hill?

Other than that your question (should you submit one) may possily attract a wider response and even a video response (so you can see the whites of their eyes).

Perhaps there is a difference in that you don't necessarily get the right of any come back. But you could use their response to initiate a dedicated thread on this board ...

Mar 5, 2013 at 3:52 PM | Registered Commentermatthu


Have a look at the Met Office website. It's obvious they've strayed a long way from being solely a meteorological forecasting service and much of their effort is directed to climate change advocacy. They have dropped the picture of the fresh dead fish on a dried up lake bed.

It comes as absolutely no surprise that they are involved with such a project.

Mar 5, 2013 at 4:00 PM | Unregistered Commentercosmic

Dave Britton (Chief Press Office, Met Office) just rang me, and said he is not aware of any official involvement from the Met Office with Reality Drop, and he is looking into and will be speaking to Reality drop about it. Potentially to get any reference removed.

Mar 5, 2013 at 4:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

I agree that the "my climate and me" website is not a good advert for a Met Office which is supposed to have learned from past mistakes. But I saw precious little sign that anyone other than the usual suspects is actually reading it. The views numbers on the youtube videos are negligible.

Mar 5, 2013 at 4:10 PM | Registered CommenterJonathan Jones

Funny comment from a reader at the Guardian:

"Everybody who posted it here was a first time poster. Kudos to the Guardian for deleting the astro-turf Spam"

Mar 5, 2013 at 4:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

"my climate and me"

My climate and I, surely..? :-)

Mar 5, 2013 at 4:28 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

Reality perched
Arches wings, shivers, and drops
Best bona fides.

Mar 5, 2013 at 4:30 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Has Reality Drop prepared a handy stock phrase as to why Al Gore has refused all invitations to publicly debate climate change? The coward is getting his obedient little foot-soldiers to do his bidding again to ensure that he continues to rake in the millions.

Mar 5, 2013 at 4:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve Jones

Funny comment from a reader at the Guardian

What's really funny is that the next comment repeats the barrel for barrel line. Obviously the previous comments are not being read.

Mar 5, 2013 at 4:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterBernal

Just a small point.If somebody writes something on a website or a comments section who owns the copyright.The owner of the site or the ISP Provider.

Just as an example copy and paste this.

Al Gore net worth: Al Gore is a former senator, Vice President, environmental activist and entrepreneur who has a net worth of $300 million. Al Gore has achieved a lot in his years in the public eye, both in the public and private sectors. In addition to his net worth, he's considered one of the most influential activists for the environment. Through his efforts in getting the word out about the danger our environment is in, he's done much in the way of changing the conversation about the issues of global warming, pollution, and environmentalism. Gore comes from a political family, his father was a Democratic US Representative and Senator. In addition to influencing Gore's path in life, this is also believed by some to be the reason Gore's call to enlist in the military during the Vietnam War was held up by the Nixon administration, so as to avoid Gore's father getting any sympathy votes! Gore himself was elected to the United States Congress at the age of 28, and remained there for 16 years in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. After a failed 1988 Presidential run, he was eventually elected Vice President under President Bill Clinton, with whom he served two consecutive four year terms. Al Gore won an Academy Award for his 2006 climate documentary An Inconvenient Truth. Gore then went on to found the cable news network Current TV. Despite their low ratings, in December 2012 Current TV was purchased by Al Jazeera for $500 million. Gore's 20% stake in Current TV earned him $100 million in pre-tax profits. Gore is a board member of Apple Inc, and owns $35 million worth of Apple shares. He is also the chairman of Generation Investment Management which has $7 billion in assets.

Didnt mention cheating on wife Tipper and then leaving her for some younger production assistant on Inconvenient Truth .That is from a site called Celebrity Net Worth by ironically named Brian Warmer

Mar 5, 2013 at 4:58 PM | Unregistered Commenterjamspid

We should be thankful for them providing templates.

".....the site asking participants in this scheme to take the chunks provided and re-write them in their own words...."

Simply cut, change the polarity as appropriate, then paste. Simples.

Mar 5, 2013 at 5:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterJoe Public

I do hope that "Reality Drop" persist with their astroturfing because, like the 10:10 video, this is a massive own goal.
Unfortunately, someone at the Grauniad will have a word and it will vanish up its own IP address.

Mar 5, 2013 at 5:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterBuffy Minton

The Tree House Gang over at (Un)Skeptical (Anti)Science are making a really big deal of this.

Quote from a regular:-

"The next few months are likely to be really ugly in Australian politics and a tool such as this could help counter the dark tide of misinformation in which we are sure to find ourselves swimming."............. paranoid?.......much?

I made one of my infrequent interventions over there and asked them if inciting people to visit a commercial site, for pre-formed opinions to scatter around the web, wasn't just astroturfing.

My post was rapidly deleted without trace and the surrounding ones renumbered.

When I complained - that post vanished too.

Both deletions were subsequently explained by moderator DB thus :-

"Your previous comment was deleted because it made suggestions of fraudulent activity (astroturfing) contrary to the comments policy. This current comment was snipped due to moderation complaints."

Tom Curtis then waded in to explain that copy & pasting propaganda points was only "astroturfing" if payment was involved.

I replied that Al's whole project was a multi-million dollar commercial venture with ad agencies like Arnold (who also flog Volvo & Jack Daniels whisky in the US) involved.

That comment disappeared without trace too.

The atmosphere in comment dialogue at SkS has now become exactly like the conversations that were leaked from their "secret forum" a year or so back.

If their buddy Loopy Lew wants to study "conspiracy ideation" he could do worse than start close to home.

Mar 5, 2013 at 5:28 PM | Registered CommenterFoxgoose

"Destroy Denial"

As a Denier of Some Magnitude, I take this as a threat.


Mar 5, 2013 at 5:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterBad Andrew

George Monbiot has been very vocal against this sort of thing
Strangely he actual heads up 'such a thing ' a web site that sends out e-mail alters to encouraging people to post on sceptical web sites in the name of 'the cause ' But of course that is 'different'

Mar 5, 2013 at 5:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterKnR


George's site is quite useful actually - it lets me know whenever Bish puts a new post up.

The funniest thing about "Reality Drop" is that the climate worriers can earn "points" for attacking the denier hordes - and "points mean prizes!" - as somebody once said.

If they earn enough points they can be appointed a "Climate Patrolman", a "Climate Captain" - or even, if your very good at copy & pasting, a "Climate Commander".

You even get a cute on-screen retro rank badge - it's all a bit nostalgic if you were ever a Thunderbirds fan.

You can imagine the Tree House Gang in their new uniforms, blasting out of their secret layer in a cute little spaceship - they could do the stilted, wooden, Gerry Anderson puppet act brilliantly.

Mar 5, 2013 at 6:03 PM | Registered CommenterFoxgoose

I would like to concur with Foxgoose about SkS. I watched his comments disappear and Tom Curtis justification of it.

I also had a brief encounter at SkS, not to be repeated, where I asked questions about whether Pachauri was misrepresented by The Australian. Most of my comments were snipped as being off topic. One was snipped for abusive HTML, whatever that is.

Then they all started blathering about deniers, off topic and rude usually. Hyper sensitive and very weird lot.

Mar 5, 2013 at 6:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterAndy scrase

Even John Cook acknowledges the repetition issue, and encourages personalized debunking, not to be confused with thinking.

SkS is all about debunking. It has been how they operate before Reality Drop came along. If you raise a valid issue that doesn't fit into their debunking suite then they can't figure out what to do and you become a troll.

I am sure some of this mentality came about from John Cools former life as a cartoonist.

Mar 5, 2013 at 6:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterAndy scrase

"To create Reality Drop's content, Climate Reality Project partnered with Skeptical Science, an organization of volunteer scientists who researched and responded to a list of common arguments against Climate Change."

Mar 5, 2013 at 6:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

Tom Curis at SkS claims that the RealityDrop activity is not "astroturfing" according to a definition which requires that paid agents are simulating a much wider grass roots activity than exists. If the people doing copy/paste are real individuals then Curtis has a point, although it is terminological rather than any adequate defense of the RealityDrop project.

What is objectionable about RealityDrop is not that it pretends to represent citizen volunteer support which does not exist (assuming for a moment that real people are doing their own cut/paste), but rather that it tends to "thread bomb" (1) standardized and (2) shallow comments, from (3) non-participants in that blog/media community who (4) pretend to engage, but (5) may not have any ongoing interest in the site at which their comment appears, (6) may not even have read the article or other comments on the thread, and/or (7) may never have been to that site before and in many cases may never visit there again.

This is deceptive and spammy to the extent that commenters parachute in and then vanish with no genuine reflection or engagement. Simulated engagement with a website community.... It is a kind of mass lobbying with no respect for the particular site or commenters.

Maybe a new term is needed for this kind of activity. It is shallow, spammy, and detrimental to reasoned discussion, but "astroturfing" may not be the correct term.

"Thread bombing" is already a venerable web term, although it usually is applied to one person making many (often tedious or repetitive) comments. However, one might say the operators of RealityDrop are in effect doing a kind of "thread bombing" each time that multiple repetitive comments appear somewhere.

[I don't bother to try to discuss anything at SkS due to heavy-handed obnoxious moderation, but if anyone cares to point this out there it is with my blessing. The only couple of times I ever tried to (politely) engage over there I was crudely snipped so I don't comment there]

Mar 5, 2013 at 6:40 PM | Registered CommenterSkiphil

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