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The Almighty Buck The Internet Politics

Virtual Money For Real Lobbying 85

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the sheeple-happy-to-be-paid-shills dept.
ogaraf writes "Silicon Alley Insider is reporting that health-insurance industry group 'Get Health Reform Right' paid Facebook users with virtual currency to be used in Facebook games in exchange for lobbying their Congressional Rep. 'Instead of asking the gamers to try a product the way Netflix would, "Get Health Reform Right" requires gamers to take a survey, which, upon completion, automatically sends the following email to their Congressional Rep: "I am concerned a new government plan could cause me to lose the employer coverage I have today. More government bureaucracy will only create more problems, not solve the ones we have."'" Relatedly, Trailrunner7 illustrates growing concern over realistic spammer profiles in social networking sites and their potential to wreak havoc, especially if these two methods were combined. "Many spammers now have large staffs of people working on nothing but building out completely fake personas for non-existent users on social networking sites and blog networks. The spammers use these personas to create accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Blogspot and other sites that have high levels of user interaction."
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Virtual Money For Real Lobbying

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  • Facebook currency (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MikeMacK (788889) on Friday December 11, 2009 @06:25PM (#30407794)
    How many Facebook dollars does it take to buy a Congressman?
    • by ascari (1400977)
      In reality (no pun intended) virtual currencies really aren't any different than other currencies. They ahve a value, they can be converted back and forth etc. So what's the big hoopla?
      • The problem is, with virtual currencies you don't have to pay income tax.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by ascari (1400977)
          True. But by the same token I really doubt that most bribes are taxed no matter what the currency is. ;-) In a way I'd say the real problem is that immense wealth can be created by anybody without really adding commensurate value. Happens in real world as well as in the virtual ones.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Fractal Dice (696349)

      Doesn't that depend on how much the other side of the issue is offering?

      Ultimately a politician is a broker of priorities - the goal of the most earnest idealist is to do the most good for the most people while doing as little harm to as few people as possible. The ideal politician sits in the middle of this storm of costs and benefits of different actions just the way a stock broker sits in the middle of an exchange of money. Since it's hard to measure the true value of every priority to every constituen

  • Goldfarming (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    yet another way the Chinese can buy influence on Capitol Hill.
  • "Many spammers now have large staffs of people working on nothing but building out completely fake personas for non-existent users on social networking sites and blog networks. The spammers use these personas to create accounts Doesn't that make them astroturfers, not spammers?
    • by Dr. Evil (3501)

      Think of it this way http://www.xkcd.com/632/ [xkcd.com]

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by causality (777677)

      "Many spammers now have large staffs of people working on nothing but building out completely fake personas for non-existent users on social networking sites and blog networks. The spammers use these personas to create accounts Doesn't that make them astroturfers, not spammers?

      Either way, that's a decently high level of dedication and sophistication. In any other context, this behavior would be called infiltration.

      The best way to deal with spam is to do something about the people who enable them. Spammers are enabled by purchasing anything from them and by getting tricked by them (i.e. phishing). There are several ways to reduce both. I for one favor some kind of penalty or stigma for the former and education for the latter. The latter could be identified when they report

      • Cutting of funds might work for spammers but these people are propogandists, they are not doing it to make money they are spending money to make laws. The health industry are certainly not alone in this modern avalanche of propganda, most sites that prominently claim to be "grassroots" or "feedom loving" are neither.
        • by hitmark (640295)

          time to invoke godwin, as this kind of activity would probably make goebbels proud...

  • That Get Health Reform Right group is spamming the local TV waves with their commercials, not giving even a slightest hint of their financial backing.
    • It has to be some group who has a high interest in medical spending and has already a sh.tload of money. The options aren't so numerous.

    • I'm sure someone will accuse me of being a communist for this but I find sourcewatch [sourcewatch.org] informative, pity more people don't use it before linking to anti-AGW front sites put up by the CEI, the heartland institue and other anti-science lobbyists.

      As an Aussie I enjoy cheaper and higher quality health care than someone in the US but it wasn't always that way I do remeber my parents stuggling with doctors bills in the early 70's. I also remeber the hollow predictions of economic armargedon that would supposedly
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        As an Aussie I enjoy cheaper and higher quality health care than someone in the US

        Good grief! As a U.S. citizen let me take a few moments of my valuable time to set you straight, you are most certainly confused. We have the finest healthcare system in the WORLD. And those of you so unfortunate to suffer with UCH Hate it. You hate the long lines, the refusal of service, and not having any say in who your doctor is. I pity the fact that you must regularly come to our country for lifesaving measures such as heart surgery. I truly feel sorry for the oppressive system you suffer under.

        • by adonoman (624929)
          For a country with the the best health care in the world you really have quite pathetic outcomes for the most part. I go to whichever doctor I want - I don't have to worry about which doctor my insurance company wants me to go to, or what tests they'll cover, or what my deductible is. Waiting lists are based on need, not on wealth. If it's a true emergency I can be in surgery as quickly here as in any US hospital - with the comfort that nothing is going to be messed up between the hospital and my insuran
  • The first part anyways, absolutely genius. In fact, so long as there is a small disclaimer somewhere the user doesn't even look, I think they are in the clear. The best part is that it branches out, the more people to use an App, the more people get invited, and so forth. Exponential. Getting people to do something real world impacting for virtual currency/items is not anything new. (Anyone remember the "Mount me for a flying mount" girl when Burning Crusade came out?)

    The second part however, I'm pretty sur

  • by Locke2005 (849178) on Friday December 11, 2009 @06:36PM (#30407920)
    I would expect that congresscritters would be smart enough to discount any position expressed in the same exact email received 100,000 times. But perhaps I overestimate them; after all, I'd expect them not to try to pick up men in airport restrooms as well.
    • by Meshach (578918) on Friday December 11, 2009 @06:51PM (#30408058)

      I would expect that congresscritters would be smart enough to discount any position expressed in the same exact email received 100,000 times. But perhaps I overestimate them; after all, I'd expect them not to try to pick up men in airport restrooms as well.

      How is that different from a petition? If a congressperson was given a petition with over 100000 signatures on it I would expect him or her to take action. Is an email petition any different?

      • by maxume (22995)

        I would expect him to vet the signatures (or at least the process used to collect them).

        With email, that isn't going to work very well (sure, maybe the people cryptographically signed the messages, but that's really, really funny, no they didn't).

      • by pavon (30274)

        If a congressperson was given a petition with over 100000 signatures on it I would expect him or her to take action.

        If I was a congressman I wouldn't. Petitions just mean that a small number of people took the time to hassle others into giving a signature. I wouldn't treat it any differently than a form letter or a position letter from an activist group. I suppose if all I was interested in was getting reelected then paying attention to the loud people who can make me look good/bad to others would be important, but I would be more interested in the reasons people are for/against a topic, not aggregate numbers.

        • by Meshach (578918)
          I guess by "take action" I mean acknowledge that an issue exists and investigate the issue not necessarily do what the people ask me. I agree that just because lots of people say something doesn't make it right. But if an elected official sees that lots of his constituents care about something he or she should acknowledge them.
    • by CrazyDuke (529195)

      From what I hear, the critters don't read many of the actual messages. That task is farmed out to staffers. And, sometimes, all that gets asked is how many emails they got about X and how many where for and against.

    • by al0ha (1262684)
      Not really, email templates are essentially how MoveOn.org works and they are very effective.
    • by Uberbah (647458)

      I would expect that congresscritters would be smart enough to discount any position expressed in the same exact email received 100,000 times. But perhaps I overestimate them; after all, I'd expect them not to try to pick up men in airport restrooms as well.

      Nope. See: Nipplegate. Out of the tens of thousands of complaints sent to the FCC about Janet Jackson's boob, they eventually figured out that there were four unique letters, and the rest were simply forms sent out by tools of the Family Research Counci

  • by BobMcD (601576) on Friday December 11, 2009 @06:53PM (#30408076)

    I got a request from a beautiful brunette that is friends with some of my friends and loves World of Warcraft and wanted to be my friend, too.

    They really ought to work on making these things more believable...

  • by MosesJones (55544) on Friday December 11, 2009 @06:55PM (#30408092) Homepage

    For anyone in the US who thinks that the current system is any good whatsoever have a read of how losing your job can cost you your life [tampabay.com].

    This paying in Facebook games just sums up the level of "debate". On one side you have a bunch of people who, like the old tobacco company, will swear blind that the current system is perfectly okay despite it killing an estimated 45,000 people a year. That is 15 9/11s in terms of un-needed deaths as a result of the current system which is being actively supported by those who profit from it.

    The irony of course is that the US not only has the worst coverage it also has the most expensive healthcare in the world while also having a lower life expectancy than most other 1st world countries.

    So to everyone who decrys the systems in Switzerland, France, Canada, UK, etc remember this. They save more lives, they result in a longer average life expectancy and they don't kill their citizens because they've lost their job. and they cost less, often half or less of the US spend per capita

    More deaths for more money. And this is the system people want? No its the system that corporations with marketing departments want and the sheep are fine to go along if they get thrown some facebook points.

    How sad

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by NoYob (1630681)
      Interesting. I'm going to send my wife, who's in health care, that link.

      All I know is, regardless of what happens, when I need some sort of major treatment, I'll be on a plane to India to get treated by an American educated Indian doctor and then spend some time on a tropical beach with my wife to recuperate - all for a third of what it will cost here.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by maxume (22995)

      Are you accounting for differences in lifestyle in those numbers?

      Comparing years added to life expectancy by health care would be a lot more interesting than simply comparing life expectancy.

      Also, what is your opinion on the impact of the different allocation systems involved? In the U.S., people with means receive extensive amounts of care without much analysis of whether the benefits of the care justify the costs, whereas most government run systems take a look at the benefits. Don't mistake that for wail

    • by Opportunist (166417) on Friday December 11, 2009 @07:22PM (#30408400)

      The reason is quite simple and can easily and cheaply be implemented: You're "encouraged" to get a checkup every couple years and your (mandatory) insurance pays for it. It's heaps cheaper to keep your system running than to fix it when it finally breaks down. Finding out that your blood pressure is through the roof and fixing it with a few pills (and some suggestions from your doc where you can improve your life style) is much cheaper (and much less painful) than a triple bypass.

      • by DarkOx (621550)

        I would argue the debate is not about health care and should not be about health care. You said it yourself "mandatory", the government has never in history required someone to purchase a good or service. Liar's like Chuck Schummer claim its comparable to auto insurance.

        Its not; its not at all. Everyone has a choice about owning a car; they then have another choice about operating it on public roads. I could buy a pickup and drive it around my private farm with no registration and no insurance, legally.

    • by gzearfoss (829360)

      "You cannot reason people out of a position that they did not reason themselves into." - Ben Goldacre [goodreads.com].

      Besides those with financial interests in the status quo, the majority of those fighting reform rely on appeals to emotions or snazzy catchphrases (death panels, anybody?), not appeals to reason. Though insightful, I doubt stories like this have much of an impact on the opinions of those already convinced.

      • Both ends of the debate rely on emotion. Don't kid yourself into believing that it is just the death panel idiots appealing to peoples' emotions.

        • Agreed, I think hyperbole on both sides is out of hand, fact is we pay too much and our system is broken. Every industrialized, free country in the world has some type of universal health coverage, whether it be public option or socialized healthcare. The two countries who have been most successful IMO are Japan and Korea both of whom have a public option in addition to privatized health care. In Japan for example they spend 8% of GDP(US is around 16% right now, and my plan is currently over 400$ per mon
          • If our government had the restraint to go along the lines of what Japan is doing then that is fine and dandy. The problem is that I think the US government is trying to emulate Canada and Europe more than Japan...

          • I think it's safe to say that a good part of the longevity of Japanese folks comes from genetic and lifestyle factors, rather than their healthcare system.

    • by causality (777677) on Friday December 11, 2009 @07:52PM (#30408720)

      The irony of course is that the US not only has the worst coverage it also has the most expensive healthcare in the world while also having a lower life expectancy than most other 1st world countries.

      So to everyone who decrys the systems in Switzerland, France, Canada, UK, etc remember this. They save more lives, they result in a longer average life expectancy and they don't kill their citizens because they've lost their job. and they cost less, often half or less of the US spend per capita

      I don't think it's reasonable to expect truly good reform from the same systems, bureaucracies, and political forces who created the current US system. The current healthcare debate in the US seems to gloss over this fallacy entirely.

      The practice of having employers provide health benefits dates back to World War II. During this time, the federal government instituted a wage freeze. Put simply, this meant that your employer could not give you a raise even if he wanted to. However, the wage freeze only included the actual dollar amount of the paycheck. So to get around this, employers kept the amount on the paycheck the same but started providing benefits that the employee normally had to purchase separately. They either provided those benefits entirely or they subsidized them. The amount of money that this saved the employee was the same as the raise the employer would otherwise have given. This allowed employers to offer competitive compensation packages that attracted and retained desirable talent while following the letter of the law.

      Like the income tax, this was a "temporary emergency wartime measure." That temporary measure destroyed any competitive market that existed for health benefits. It set a precedent where most people's benefits come from their employer, often a large one with many employees. The effect has been that to this day, an individual who independently purchases health insurance has no bargaining power. They are up against corporations with thousands of employees who can negotiate better prices in a way that individuals cannot. The individual generally receives a non-negotiable, "take it or leave it" offer in a market full of major players and little competition.

      It also makes employees more dependent on their employers than what is strictly necessary. How many people stay with a job they don't really like because they are worried about losing their benefits? How many people lose their benefits when they lose a specific job, even though they could otherwise replace the income? In my opinion, the ideal balance is when the company needs its employees just as much as the employees need the company. Anytime that is not the case, the side which is more dependent gets the short end of the stick in any matter of bargaining or negotiation. Healthcare is just one of many ways that the corporations generally have us over a barrel, and know it.

      I'd like to see all of that fixed. That would be real reform, or at least a good start. If that still doesn't work, then in the specific case of the USA I would be open to the idea of socialized health care. Right now most of what I am hearing in the news, from our leaders, consists of proposals for partial implementations of socialized care, except they go to some trouble to avoid calling it that, preferring to call it a "public option" etc.. I'm really not impressed. The unwillingness to call things what they are is better known as deception. The only reason for our politicians to be deceptive about this is because they are more interested in power than a smoothly-working system. I think this, above all, is what turns off many Americans to the prospect of socialism. If socialism turns out to be the right answer, it won't be because these clowns implemented it.

      • by Shakrai (717556)

        The only reason for our politicians to be deceptive about this is because they are more interested in power than a smoothly-working system. I think this, above all, is what turns off many Americans to the prospect of socialism.

        Bingo. Every "freebie" you get from the Government comes with a corresponding reduction in personal freedom. Want free health care? We will tell you what kind of policy you can purchase and take away your freedom to opt out of having said coverage.

        Want assistance going to college? No problem. We'll just check to make sure you registered for selective service and make sure that you've never smoked weed.

        Want money to help maintain your highways? No problem. Just implement 21 as the drinking age and we

      • by dj245 (732906)
        Could an executive order from the President knock the congressmen off their healthcare and onto the "average american's" health plan? I think they would pass a bill pretty quick if they had high premiums, high co-pays, and had to deal with the insurance companies themselves. The whole idea that they can legislate plans for everyone, when they are on super 100% everything covered gold plans FOR LIFE, is ridiculous to me.
    • by izomiac (815208)
      Our current system contributes to 60% of bankruptcies, is the most expensive in the world, and doesn't come close to providing adequate care to everyone. I do not know whether a more capitalistic or a more socialistic system would be best, but right now we have the benefits of neither and the problems of both.

      That said, life expectancy is difficult to compare across cultures. Ours is actually predicted to peak and start declining before long, due to the obesity epidemic. Other countries are about 5-15
    • On one side you have a bunch of people who, like the old tobacco company, will swear blind that the current system is perfectly okay despite it killing an estimated 45,000 people a year.

      We need health care reform, but let's use legitimate arguments instead of specious talking points to make the case. Otherwise, you are just supporting the people against health care reform by damaging the credibility of the argument for it.

      You need to put that 45,000 figure into context. If, for example, the US had the UK

    • by Monsuco (998964)

      The irony of course is that the US not only has the worst coverage it also has the most expensive healthcare in the world

      We also recieve the most healthcare in the world. American's generally have elective surgery much more than is average, and they tend to spend more on optional prescriptions. No surprise, more care = more cost. This isn't a bad thing, remember that like nearly any sector of the economy healthcare is not zero-sum. More money spent there doesn't mean there is less for everything else. Production of goods or providing of services have value, money is used as a token to exchange value. If I spend a few thousand

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I'd like to hear Obama's stance on the recent Lay on Hands nerf for Paladins. If he is willing to support reverting this back to not include the Forebarance debuff than I may be willing to support his Health Care Reform bill.
  • Sadly, this is like the FCC complaints on indecency. There are a few special interest groups that generate hundreds or thousands of complaints that don't accurately represent consumers. That way, the FCC acts, and those special interest groups get their agenda pushed, even though the actual number of consumers complaining are minimal or none.

  • by selven (1556643) on Friday December 11, 2009 @07:12PM (#30408268)

    I hate large, inefficient institutions as much as anyone but these large corporations are just as large and inefficient as the government, plus a profit motive. I say bring on government health care.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by FooAtWFU (699187)
      Yes, but I am concerned a new government plan could cause me to lose the employer coverage I have today. More government bureaucracy will only create more problems, not solve the ones we have.

      (Sorry, my account was hacked by a clever survey! :b)

    • but these large corporations are just as large and inefficient as the government

      I suspect that if that were indeed the case we'd see a lot more countries like Cuba out-performing more capitalist nations. Government isn't without a profit motive; you've just convinced yourself that there isn't one.

      • by selven (1556643) on Friday December 11, 2009 @08:02PM (#30408820)

        In the realm of health care, Cuba does [realclearpolitics.com] outperform the United States.

        • Technically only the South for the most part. The North on the other hand is on par with Europe's life expectancy. Curiously enough, even the more conservative northern states like Montana have relatively high life expectancies compared to the south. It appears to be mostly a cultural phenomenon rather than a structural one.

          • by nbauman (624611)

            I'd like to look at whatever statistics you're using.

            In my understanding, the center cities in the North are substantially worse in all public health indicators than Cuba. I know the infant mortality and life expectancy in The Bronx, NY is worse than Cuba.

            In fact, Fidel Castro invited a dozen Americans to attend Cuban medical school, and they did. One guy came from The Bronx. A doctor from the New England Journal of Medicine visited their school, and reported favorably on it. Castro also offered to send Cub

        • by mwolfe38 (1286498)
          Is this a sarcastic comment.. Or did you not actually read the article you linked?
      • by nbauman (624611)

        but these large corporations are just as large and inefficient as the government

        I suspect that if that were indeed the case we'd see a lot more countries like Cuba out-performing more capitalist nations. Government isn't without a profit motive; you've just convinced yourself that there isn't one.

        Look on the back of your computer. What Communist country was it made in?

        • I'm sure if we knocked out those pesky minimum wage laws our labor would be dirt cheap too. Now if you're referring to China as being the Communist state in question, there's one slight problem: it isn't.

  • Beware there might be a lawsuit from Milton Bradley..having the HMOs using virtual money to lobby is rather like having the advantage of some really well healed (pardon the pun) lobbyists just playing a game that we all have to pay for!
  • Half of my twitter followers are either commercial (I have an airline following me ffs) or data-mining spammers. Most of them know better than to tweet me and get blocked. I used to block them initially but they just find a different nick and rejoin. I call it twittercrud.

  • everyone knows it is extremely easy to trick a user to send some messages/invitations to masses of friends/groups s/he has no intention of sending them.

    american corporatism. everywhere. not only screwing, but also fooling americans. yet there are still morons who think that unregulated corporatism can work.

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