Learning from American Petroleum Institute’s Fake Twitter Campaign

Read the full post at Triple Pundit.

Social media has become a popular engagement tool for both companies and organizations. So far the examples we had of social media usage were divided between good (Keen is a great example as my colleague, Paul Smith pointed out here two weeks ago) and the bad (remember the disastrous response of Nestle to Greenpeace campaignon its Facebook page?). Now we also have the ugly.

An investigation by the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) concluded that the office of a former Nebraska Senator working for the American Petroleum Institute (API) appears to have set up about 25 fake Twitter accounts to promote the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

This attempt might shock you unless you’re familiar with the campaign tactics of API. Apparently this is not the first time they have launched an astroturf campaign. In 2009, a leaked memo from API’s President exposed plans to launch a nationwide astroturf campaign, including a series of “Energy Citizens” rallies in about 20 states against the climate legislation which was debated then (oh, the good old days) in the Senate.

Two years later API finds itself dealing with another battle – this time it is on the Keystone XL pipeline, a $13 billion project that would extend over 1,500 miles from Alberta to Texas. If constructed, the pipeline will carry tar sands oil, which is considered one of the world’s dirtiest fuels. Along its route from Alberta to Texas, this pipeline could, according to environmental organizations, devastate ecosystems, pollute water sources, and would jeopardize public health. TransCanada needs US State Department approval to move forward and the final decision on the project is expected before the end of the year.

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