In what may be the first case against online astroturfing, New York's attorney general has reached a settlement with a cosmetic surgery company. Lifestyle Lift will pay a $300,000 penalty and has agreed to "stop publishing anonymous positive reviews about the company to Internet message boards and other Web sites," according to a statement from Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's office. Concerned that "negative Internet posts had significantly hurt the company's reputation," Lifestyle Lift directed its employees to post comments and even create websites praising the company's facelift procedures, while pretending to be Lifestyle Lift customers. In one email, a Lifestyle Lift manager told an employee to "put your wig and skirt on and tell them about the great experience you had." Employees also tried "to 'attack' legitimate comments criticizing the company and tried to get such postings removed." One of the company's websites, MyFaceliftStory.com, now clarifies that it's run by Lifestyle Lift and no longer has stories from people claiming to have undergone the procedure. An archived version of the site from 2008 claims the site was started by "Ann," who wanted to respond to the online "horror stories about Lifestyle Lift," which she thinks "were probably from envious doctors and just made up."
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