Creative Commons’ decision to work with BzzAgents has upset big CC supporters, such as Suw:
for Creative Commons to start using BzzAgents is, not to put too fine a point on it, a betrayal of the work done by grassroots activists who are genuinely concerned about the state of copyright today. The people who have been working hard on promoting CC, who are contributing CC material to the ever growing commons, who are writing about copyright reform, putting together seminars and events, these are CC’s ‘buzz agents’, and they do all this work for free, because they believe on a fundamental level that it is important.
and Richard Eriksson:
BzzAgent and undercover marketing are, in a word, creepy. The premise is that people will go to social events or places where people gather and have conversations with people, judge whether there is a chance to discuss a product that that person has been tasked with mentioning, and bring it up as naturally as possible. […] Their top 100 agents page highlights someone who interrupts a conversation about politics to talk about what shoes the politicians were wearing.
Why do they feel so betrayed?
I think this is because BzzAgents crosses the line between the two moral syndromes that Jane Jacobs identifies in Systems of Survival – the Guardian syndrome, which is based on loyalty and social groups, and the Commercial one, which is based on honest dealing and collaboration with strangers.
By giving people incentives to subvert social situations for their paying customers, BzzAgents criss-cross these lines thoroughly. Petulantly calling people liars when they mention their distaste for this sits ill with a professed desire for “honest, authentic word of mouth”.