Some X users (formerly Twitter) claim to have identified astroturfing tactics and bot accounts promoting Tether, Bitfinex, and their associated tokens like USDT and LEO. Critics have found dozens of sock puppets generating seemingly fake support for Tether.
Indeed, querying “Tether fake accounts” returns hundreds of unique stories from users about Tether and Bitfinex using what appears to be bots and other fake online material.
Without relying on these claims, it is public knowledge that Tether has hired low-cost laborers to provide “promotional services” for as little as $10 per day. Oddly, the General Counsel for Tether seemingly admitted that Tether deployed X bots, although the context of his tweet is open to interpretations other than fake engagement.
Low-paid workers, of course, may use multiple X accounts to post about Tether, Bitfinex, and their associated tokens.
Fake support for Tether and Bitfinex
Astroturfing campaigns are designed to look like a grassroots campaign from large numbers of smaller and less influential accounts. AstroTurf is a company that produces fake turf for sports fields, hence its association with “fake grassroots” media campaigns.
Signs of astroturfing or boting might include generic or fake profile pictures, low engagement, or low follower counts. One of the suspected astroturfers, for example, uses a picture of palm trees and has 146 followers despite having existed since 2012. It mostly retweets other accounts’ posts.
Astroturfing accounts will often seek criticism of whatever they were paid to promote and try to defend it. Normally, they reply with claims with very little evidence to back themselves up and often fail to directly address the criticism. Worse, their tweets will often include typos and grammar or syntax errors.
For example, somebody screenshotted an astroturfing account saying, “the coin has advanced significantly. There’s no way they will collapse like that because they have been in this industry for eight years and counting and have handled a variety of situations.”
Even just tweeting that screenshot attracted further suspected astroturfing:
Long-standing members of the Bitcoin community, such as Adam Back, suspect that Tether might have a “bot shadow” as far back as 2019 when Bitcoin Cash and Bitcoin SV were still fighting. A possible competitor might have used those bots to continue a fight with Tether and Bitfinex.
Of course, Tether and Bitfinex wouldn’t be the only digital asset industry players to potentially use astroturfing. Research found that the “XRP Army” and other similarly-named communities like LINK Marines are heavily reliant on fake engagement. Sadly, astroturfing is a common marketing tactic in the crypto industry.