Understanding crowdturfing: The different ethical logics behind the clandestine industry of deception

Tapani Rinta-Kahila, Wael Soliman

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionScientificpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Crowdturfing, the dark side and usually unnoticed face of crowdsourcing, represents a form of cyber-deception in which workers are paid to express a false digital impression. While such behavior may not be punishable under the jurisdiction of formal law, its consequences are destructive to the cohesion and trustworthiness of online information. The conceptual work at hand examines the current literature on the topic, and lays the foundation for a theoretical framework that explains crowdturfing behavior. We discuss crowdturfing through three ethical normative approaches: traditional philosophical ethics, business ethics, and codified rules. We apply these lenses to an illustrative example of an online platform orchestrating the trade of paid book reviews on Amazon. The study contributes to theory by explaining the ethical logic behind crowdturfing from the perspectives of the key actors involved in the business. We argue that while crowdturfing cannot stand a critical examination through the deontological, stakeholder, or social contract perspectives, leaning on the teleological logic, the stockholder theory, or certain levels of codified rules can enable the actors involved in the business to operate with clean conscience. An increased understanding of the behavior can help both victim platforms and the Internet community at large to combat this hidden industry.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 25th E uropean Conference on Information Systems (ECIS), Guimarães, Portugal, June 5-10, 2017
PublisherEuropean Conference on Information Systems (ECIS)
ISBN (Electronic)978-989-20-7655-3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2017
MoE publication typeA4 Article in a conference publication
EventEuropean Conference on Information Systems - Guimaraes, Portugal
Duration: 5 Jun 201710 Jun 2017
Conference number: 25


ConferenceEuropean Conference on Information Systems
Abbreviated titleECIS


  • crowdturfing
  • (un)ethical IS use
  • social contract
  • deterrence
  • cybersecurity


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