An anonymous reader alerts us that an outfit called Magpie is paying Twitter users to tout advertisers' products
. Marshall Kirkpatrick of ReadWriteWeb has identified a number of household-name companies — among them Apple, Skype, Kodak, Cisco, Adobe, Roxio, PC Tools, and Box.net
— whose products are hyped by identically worded, paid Magpie tweets. But comments to Kirkpatrick's post, including one from a Box.net spokesman, make it sound likely that these shills were paid for not by the companies themselves, but by affiliate marketers. That may not matter. In the same way that Belkin recently got burned paying consumers
to write complimentary online reviews about the company's products, the makers of products and services touted through Magpie may find themselves tainted in the backlash from this new form of astroturfing. Kirkpatrick concludes his post: "So there's the Twitter-sphere for you! Bring on 'real time search,' bring on a globally connected community, bring on vapid, vile, stupid shilling. It all seems pretty sad to me."