The rapid technological evolution has made the world a different place. Our society has, undoubtedly, evolved along with technology. The internet has changed the way we consume information and the way we live. It has become an integral part of our lives. This has not gone unnoticed by corporations and governments all over the world. They understand the potential of the world wide web, and they are constantly trying to find ways to monopolize the virtual space.

Astroturfing: Definition and examples

By definition, #astroturfing is "the practice of masking the sponsors of a message or organization to make it appear as though it originates from and is supported by a grassroots participant." In layman's terms, astroturfing is spreading #propaganda disguised as public opinion. It's safe to conclude that governments and corporations have always done this through mass media, but the internet has given them a whole new avenue to explore and spread their propaganda.

Reddit, for example, has reduced itself to being nothing but a propaganda tool, for the most part, but social media websites are not immune to so called "shills." The British Army has created a special team of online "warriors," skilled in psychological manipulation, to aid Britain in #Cyber Warfare, the Guardian has reported.

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An army spokesman has officially confirmed this.

Additionally, the Washington Post confirmed that the Obama administration hired a man named Cass Sunstein, famous for writing a Harvard paper that suggests intelligence officials should infiltrate online forums and chat rooms (with an emphasis on "conspiracy theory" communities), to influence discussion and spread propaganda.

President Obama, however, is not the first government official to use new media as a propaganda tool. According to a paper submitted to the Naval War College by USA Army major Angela Maria Lungu, and titled "The internet and psychological operations," both George W. Bush's and Al Gore's campaign teams wanted to use chat rooms and similar platforms for "guided discussions to influence how citizens think about certain topics."

One of Reddit's most popular subreddits, /r/The_Donald can also be considered an echo chamber, a favorite habitat of trolls and Trump shills.

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This just shows how there is no difference between the left and the right when it comes to propaganda: regardless of their political stances, politicians will not let anything stand in their way when it comes to engineering narratives and disguising them as public opinion.

What does the future hold?

Governments and corporations are always a few steps ahead of the general public. According to the Business Insider, 90% of media is controlled by six corporations. Governments have long ago penetrated social media and discussion websites. What the general public is currently unaware of though, is that any time they are discussing something online, they could be talking to someone hired and paid by the government or a corporation.

The world wide web is being taken away from us, and instead of remaining space for discussion and free thought, it is slowly transforming into a propaganda vehicle. Ironically, we've never had more access to information, and we've never had a harder time differentiating between real and fake news.

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