Astroturf is to politics and social change what fake likes and profiles are to Facebook and fake product reviews are to Amazon. A surge of popularity or concern may in reality be manufactured at a few terminals for pay or promotion.
In the long run, astroturfing does not force us to believe that masses of our neighbours support some dangerous, morally wrong, or ridiculous proposal. But it does challenge us to stay involved with our communities and listen carefully, ignoring the sheer public noise that threatens to drown them out. (See also: Fake news is coming to your town. And mine. Big time. And we are talking genuine fakes here. And Fake disaster news from Russia’s troll house.) More.
Reality check: The big question isn’t any longer what to “do” about it in the sense that this is a unified society in which something could be done. Those who work for the government and/or receive benefits cheques from it will not in fact care whether the news or approved causes are manufactured anyway.
The question is, for those who do care, how to maintain a free and informed mind as it all happens.
See also: Twitter vs. religious conservatives? Enforcing rules against hate speech selectively is worse than not enforcing them at all.