Meet the lobbyist next door | MarketingwithAnoy

The click-per-pay model, DiResta says, can also change influencers’ behavior – creating “the incentive to produce and reinforce content in the most inflammatory way to get audiences to take action.” But at the most fundamental level, researchers expressed concern about the potential for deception in civil discourse. DiResta said: “I do not think the public really understands the extent to which the people who make these posts are actually potentially being personally enriched by them.”

The consequences of not revealing these ties can affect anyone, from your gullible grandmother all the way up to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. A knowledgeable person with insight into an Urban Legend campaign described a client’s efforts to put pressure on the FCC. According to the person, one of the incumbent influencers was Eric Bolling, a scandalous former Fox News host and one of just 51 people that President Trump followed on Twitter. Bolling’s post involved a “telecommunications problem”, with the aim of “putting as much pressure” as possible on the FCC. There were “thousands of engagements overnight” from Bolling’s tweet, the person said, as “FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai and President followed and so on.”

Today, Bolling’s tweet does not appear to be on his feed. Most social media marketing campaigns are deleted once they have run their course, and I found Urban Legends campaigns no exception. Rinat said influencers always know the identity of a client – and followers will know that too, because the link generally leads them to a campaign page where the sponsor can be identified. He later said that transparency is “a very important thing for influencer marketing, and especially for our model. Without it, audience trust declines and the resulting engagement declines.” He also called for clearer rules from law enforcement.

Urban Legend continues to protect the identities of its influencers and the customers who pay them. The company’s tactful hands-off approach to disclosure, Farid said, makes the stock market “a system that – by design – is ripe for abuse.”

“At best, the appearance is bad,” he continued. “At worst, it hides something creepy.”


The satirist and critic HL Mencken once wrote that “every time you hear a man talk about his love for his country, it’s a sign that he expects to be paid for it.” The bony notion that Americans would happily sell anything – even their patriotism – must have seemed like a funny hypothetical at the time. But perhaps Mencken simply did not live long enough to see Americans offered the chance.

Last September, HuffPost reporter Jesselyn Cook noticed one wave of Instagram posts that seemed to respond with the timing of a major payment to Urban Legend for “advertising,” according to FEC filings, through a partner company called Legendary Campaigns. The purchase was made by the National Republican Senator Committee, which raises money for Senate campaigns. The posts had headlines like “End to Mask Mandates, Endless Lockdowns and Vaccine Pass!” and demanded “a full study of Biden technological cooperation.” Each post linked to NRSC petitions, which collected names and emails.

When I asked Rinat about the posts, he initially said he did not think the promotions came from Urban Legend. A few weeks later, however, an Urban Legend client shared with WIRED several backdated screenshots of their influencers’ posts. Each of these posts redirected users to a petition using a very unusual URL construction, which began with “” According to computer science researchers who studied the string, the “.to” TLD is registered in the country of Tonga and has a registration history that cannot be seen. The “exc” domain was registered with the URL shortening service, which works with private business customers to convert their registered domains into redirect links (such as “” to the sports network). Since the founding of Urban Legends in 2020, “” has not been found anywhere else on the Internet, except for one place: the HuffPost story, where a 16-year-old Instagram post for NRSC bore the clear URL “END MASK MANDATES: / 3zLvUFB. “

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