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Meet the Lobbyist Next Door

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The pay-per-click model could also change influencer behavior, DiResta said — creating “incentives to produce and amplify content in the most provocative way possible to drive audience action.” But at its most basic level, the researchers say raised concerns about the potential deception of civic discourse. “I don’t think the public really understands the extent to which the people who made these posts may actually have gotten rich on their own,” DiResta said.

From your gullible grandmother all the way to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the consequences of not disclosing these relationships could touch anyone. A person with deep knowledge of Urban Legend’s campaign described a customer’s efforts to put pressure on the FCC. One of those influencers is Eric Bolling, the disgraced former Fox News host and one of 51 people President Trump follows on Twitter, according to people familiar with the matter. one. Bolling’s post addressed “telecommunications issues” and his goal was to “put as much pressure on the FCC as possible.” Bolling’s tweets were “involved overnight by thousands” and “tracked and seen by FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai and the president,” the person said.

Today, Bolling’s tweet doesn’t appear to appear on his feed. Most social media marketing campaigns are deleted after completing the course, and I found that Urban Legend’s campaign was no exception. Influencers always know who the customer is — and so do followers, because the link usually takes them to the event page where the sponsor can be identified, Rinat said. Later, he said that transparency “is a very important thing for influencer marketing, especially with our model. Without it, audience trust goes down, and the resulting engagement goes down.” He also called for Law enforcement agencies make clearer rules.

While advocating transparency, Urban Legend continues to protect the identities of its influencers and the customers who pay them. The company’s clever hands-off approach to disclosure makes the exchange “a well-established system for abuse by design,” Farid said.

“At best, the appearance is terrible,” he continued. “At worst, it hides something evil.”

Illustration: Maria Vlad

satirist and Critic HL Mencken once wrote, “Whenever you hear a man speak of his love for his country, it shows he wants to pay for it.” Americans will happily sell anything—even their patriotism— It must have seemed like an interesting hypothesis at the time. But perhaps Mencken simply didn’t live to see the Americans offer that opportunity.

Through a partner company called Legendary Campaigns, in September of last year, HuffPost reporter Jesselyn Cook noticed a wave of Instagram posts that appeared to correspond to the time Urban Legend was being paid out in large “advertising” fees, according to the FEC filing. The purchase was made by the National Republican Senate Committee, which raises money for the Senate campaign. The posts were titled “End Mask Mandates, Endless Lockdowns, and Vaccine Passports!” and called for a “full investigation into Biden’s collusion with tech companies.” Each post is linked to an NRSC petition, which collects names and emails.

When I asked Rinat about these posts, he initially said he didn’t think the events were from Urban Legends. However, a few weeks later, an Urban Legend client shared with WIRED a couple of throwback screenshots of their influencer’s post. Each of these posts redirects users to the petition using a very unusual URL structure that starts with “exc.to”. According to the computer science researchers who examined the string, the top-level domain “.to” is registered in the Tongan state and has an unreviewable registration history. The domain name “exc” is registered on the URL shortening service Bit.ly, which works with private corporate clients to convert their registered domain names into redirect links (eg “es.pn” for sports networks). “exc.to” has not been found anywhere else on the internet since Urban Legend’s inception in 2020, except in one place: HuffPost’s story, where a 16-year-old NRSC’s Instagram post carries the notice URL “END MASK” License: exc.to/3zLvUFB. “



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