Could you be a Barcelona footballer's personal Tweeter for £45,000?

Not too arduous a position…

Is this the best job in the world? MajorPlayers, a marketing recruitment consultancy, is advertising for a "Social Media Reporter", which will "give you the opportunity to report and manage the global social media activity for a huge football star… creating and sharing updates via social media channels including Facebook and Twitter" for a salary of £35,000 – £45,000.

Yes, you could have been paid £45,000 to be someone's Twitter butler.

The requirements are arduous — but not that arduous:

You need to keep the community in touch with the player during the playing season, as well as off season, with both on and off the pitch related content. You should have proven skills in social media and community management and development or solid skills in content and social journalism. Since you need to engage credibly with this sporting community, an excellent knowledge of football and a clear passion for the sport will be a distinct advantage. You must be bilingual with excellent writing and grammar in both Spanish and English and be happy to travel every week – usually to away games within Europe but sometimes further afield.

The job is based in Barcelona, which gives some hint as to who you might be ghosting. But could you really get in the head of Messi or Puyol?

Sadly, you'll never be able to find out: the position has already been filled. If someone's Twitter feed suddenly gets much more eloquent and bilingual shortly, we know who to blame…

The Barcelona squad. Photograph: Getty Images

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

Photo: Getty
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The internet dictionary: what is astroturfing?

Yes, like the fake grass.

Thanks to the internet, there are a lot of new words. You’re most likely up to speed with your LOLs and OMGs, which became Oxford English Dictionary-worthy in 2011 (LOL OMG if you’re not). But words emerge constantly, and it can be hard to keep track of them. This is what this column is for. Every week, I’ll define a word that is crucial to understanding the internet, starting with “astroturfing” – like the fake grass.

To astroturf is to mask the author of a message to make it appear to have come from the grass roots. Messages created by brands, politicians and even the military are disguised as comments made by the public. The practice existed before the web – the term is thought to have been coined in 1985 by a US senator who received a “mountain” of letters from insurance companies posing as the public – but the internet has propelled it to new, disturbing heights.

“GIRLS U NEED TO READ THIS,” reads a tweet by a handsome teenage boy named Ashton, who tweets the same words day after day, followed by crying and heart emojis. Ashton lives to promote the book of a 19-year-old self-published author from Sheffield – or, at least, he would, if he lived at all. Ashton is fake, a profile designed to make the book seem popular. Many teenage girls have been duped by this. One told me: “I felt very cheated out of my money and my time.”

It has been estimated that a third of all consumer reviews online are fake. But it doesn’t end with bad books. In China, the “50 Cent Army” are astroturfers who are allegedly paid a small fee for each positive post they write about the Chinese Communist Party. And in 2011, it emerged that the US military was developing an “online persona management service” to spread pro-American messages, allowing one person to manage multiple online identities.

We would be foolish to assume that our own democracy is immune. Much was written about how the Tories used targeted social media adverts at the last election, and it is easy to see how astroturfing could transform our political landscape for ever. 

Amelia Tait is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 10 August 2017 issue of the New Statesman, France’s new Napoleon