Unethical but not illegal: Uncovering the persuasive messages leveraged by providers of the “real” online social impressions

Wael Soliman, Tapani Rinta-Kahila

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

1 Citation (Scopus)


Due to the drastically elevated prominence of social networking sites (SNS), online social impressions such as views, comments, followers, subscribers, likes, and dislikes have become a valuable currency that translates to popularity, credibility, and even financial gains. Aside from machine-generated impressions, a growing industry known as crowdturfing utilizes human workers to provide “real” social impressions as-a-service. Although crowdturfing platforms are often seen as a clear example of deceptive conduct, they justify their business by leveraging well-crafted persuasive strategies and ethical appeals. Given the increasingly significant role of online impressions on shaping people's views and opinions, the servitization of these impressions calls for a clearer understanding. To address this call, we set out to investigate 1) What persuasive strategies do crowdturfing agents leverage to promote their service offerings?; and 2) To what extent these offerings can be ethically justified? Our analysis reveals utilization of three key persuasive strategies - namely, educational messages, bragging messages, and reassuring messages. Moreover, we find that they use various ethical appeals which largely depend on the conception of what 'real' means. The theoretical and practical significance of these findings are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationECIS 2018 Proceedings
PublisherAssociation for Information Systems
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-86137-667-1
Publication statusPublished - 2018
MoE publication typeA4 Article in a conference publication
EventEuropean Conference on Information Systems - Portsmouth, United Kingdom
Duration: 23 Jun 201828 Jun 2018
Conference number: 26


ConferenceEuropean Conference on Information Systems
Abbreviated titleECIS
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • Buying real views
  • Crowdturfing
  • Ethics theory
  • Online social impressions
  • Qualitative content analysis


Dive into the research topics of 'Unethical but not illegal: Uncovering the persuasive messages leveraged by providers of the “real” online social impressions'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this