Probably one for the Huel team but I’m interested to know everyone’s thoughts:

Ever since this forum has existed, it seems every week a new account is created which posts a thread making some wild allegation about Huel - “I found alien in my RTD”/“Huel Black killed my puppy” etc.

The person making the allegation never provides any evidence and often never posts again.

More-recently, a handful of other brand-new accounts will chime in and claim they too lost their puppy to Huel Black toxicity/their granny was killed by an exploding Huel t-shirt/whatever - and all the accounts will use suspiciously-similar sentence structure and so on.

I assume Discord has the option to do this: why not require new users to have posted at least ~25 times in existing threads before they can create their own thread?

This will give us jaded, cynical forum regulars 25 opportunities to spot the bots before they can post a thread about whatever astroturfing nonsense they want to spread.

Just an idea tho :woman_shrugging::grimacing:


At the moment at least until AI gets its act together, they are usually not bots but opinion manipulation individuals or companies who are being paid to make the posts – as you say they, are generally fairly easy to spot but that’s unfortunately not the point. Interestingly you see much less of this kind of activity on the US forum, as I believe these kind of ‘services’ are technically illegal there while in the UK and EU they are not.


It increases my feeling of loyalty to Huel to have the suspicion that their competitors are paying people to spread malicious falsehoods. So maybe it’s self-defeating in some ways.

Existing customers are only a small target really – more often it’s about either deterring new customers or discrediting products. The OM’s are individuals or companies either paid directly by rivals or through intermediate agencies. They are essentially engaged to run smear campaigns against rival brands, individuals, organisations etc.

They do this in a variety of ways (referenced from Norton Security):

Creating fake accounts: A common tactic competitors use to present a false sense of support or opposition to their rivals, controlling narratives and influencing opinion. They typically engage in controversial discussions or spread false information.

Spreading false information: Deliberately spreading false information, competitors create and share misleading content, such as fake and fabricated narratives to discredit rival brands or products.

Organised trolling: Coordinated malicious efforts to harass, intimidate, or provoke customers or individuals associated with a competitor. They systematically attack the targeted company’s social profiles or public forums with the objective to create a hostile environment, stifle constructive conversations and alienate potential customers.

Promoting negative content: This takes various forms, including critical reviews, testimonials of dissatisfied customers or highlighting alleged failures of the targeted company’s products. Amplifying negative narratives through direct channels aims to tarnish reputations and discourage potential customers from engaging with products or services.

Manipulating public opinion in favour of a competitor: Selectively presenting information, highlighting perceived shortcomings of a brand and amplifying negative sentiments - are designed to shape public perception, adapt the narrative to suit their agenda and ultimately gain a competitive advantage.

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Amazing. What a world we live in. Thanks for the enlightenment.

Do we have any way of knowing for sure that there are any companies who do not engage in this kind of fakery and dishonesty? I suppose not. :frowning:

I wouldn’t have thought there is any way of putting an exact number on it, but it’s very widespread for sure. Certainly not as prevalent as in some other areas but obviously brand rivalry is a big thing - and this kind of behaviour is growing all of the time. Sadly, when a brand is more open to engagement through their social channels or forums like this, it makes them more susceptible to frequent attack.

Even when a company publicly and expressly forbids this kind of behaviour with its employees or agencies (such as the one I work for) they are also not averse to ‘encouraging’ them to do the same thing but in much more oblique and passive ways.

So… what’re the chances Huel doesn’t use these same techniques?
A rhetorical question, I guess.

It’s a great suggestion! It would be great if that was an option that could be implemented but the problem we’ve got here is we know a lot of first-time customers who do come to the forum for guidance and help!

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Not just the t-shirts – the beanies too! My gran’s dog’s previous owner’s cousin’s neighbor’s former high school crush’s brother-in-law’s friend’s math teacher’s pet goldfish’s seller’s uncle once wore a Huelwear beanie, and it was like an episode of The Boys. Head just popped everywhere, made a right stain.


The problem is that many new genuine customers would presumably create an account primarily to ask a question when they are stuck or need advice, so those are precisely the people who you might want to allow to post a question. [Like me, for example, a relatively new user (who isn’t a bot!).] As, in fact, Mark_Huel has just mentioned too. One concern with leaving such nonsense up on the forum, I suppose, is that the negative comments get picked up by search engines and then returned as results when people are Googling. But then censoring posts is a slippery slope as well.

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One relatively-graceful solution for this would be to have a “new users with Huel questions” thread, sticked at the top of the forum, and/or a specific forum for new users with questions/concerns.

Or, alternatively, you can either require posts by users with fewer than 25 posts to be approved by a moderator, or only allow those posts to be viewed by logged-in users, the second solution of these two being the most-effective at preventing an astroturfing campaign from making it around the world before the Huel team have laced up their fact-checking shoes, so to speak :woman_shrugging::upside_down_face:


After the Daily Greens change, I couldn’t agree more with some kind of update like this. I’m all for sharing opinions and experiences – the more the merrier, positive and negative – but the obvious manipulation/fake accounts are getting pretty annoying when people who actually buy the product simply want to see more info, ask questions, etc. rather than swim through a sea of clearly organised attempts at dissecting and childishly dramatising the most minute things, creating hyperbole and leading with “cancellation/now paying double for AG1”.

Considering the wave of YouTubers and “influencers” promoting that and the extortionate price of said product, I wonder what company has enough funds to facilitate such targeted campaigns…

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Depends on what route they take – if they are paying a youtuber to passively ‘promote’ their product over others, they will be paying as little as $20–$200 for a nano-influencer all though way up to $20,000+ for million plus channels. Social media posts are about half that rate, with the cheapest option obviously being posting on public forums, Reddit etc. Thanks to the wide geographic remote availability of skilled and practised ethics vacuums, a company can have their pick of very experienced manipulators for less than $10 per hour of work.


Good grief. Maybe some kind of safeguards are needed.

You know a lot about this, Phil. Perhaps… too much.


By the way, this forum is a Discourse


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I actually prefer the astroturfers making new threads. It’s easy to ignore. When they start clogging up existing threads it’s more annoying.

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that’s not part of the SOP sadly

look on the bright side, looking at the recent comments on the Greens thread, whoever is organising it, definitely isn’t paying top dollar on Upwork hiring these muppets :slight_smile:


Well that is true :joy:

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Christ, the sheer number of “This is the first time [latest bot] has posted — let’s welcome them to our community!” in that thread is unbelievable! :open_mouth: