PMW’s Facebook Scam

Opponent’s Facebook Scam: Sudden Spikes in “Like” Numbers, International “Favorite Cities” Suggest False, Inflated Fan Base

While Washington United for Marriage (WUM), the broad coalition working to defend the state’s marriage law and approve Referendum 74, has gradually and organically built its Facebook page to more than 52,000 fans or “likes”, lead opponents have taken the opposite route, apparently buying “likes” to create an inflated online community much larger than they actually have.

As the graphs shown here and below this release attest, Preserve Marriage Washington (PMW) had approximately 2,500 Facebook fans until late summer when its page exploded in numbers over just a few days. It would be the first of four such bursts, all of them linking to overseas locations. Also, accessed here are the screen shots of PMW’s Facebook page, which are time stamped and confirm a pattern of inexplicable spikes in its fan base.

The pattern began between Aug. 20 and 22, when PMW’s page received nearly 8,000 new “likes” and showed first, New York City and, finally, Makati, a city in the Philippines, as the “most popular city”. (Facebook defines this as “The city where most of the people talking about this Page are from”.) Almost overnight, PMW’s Facebook page skyrocketed to 10,427 fans.

Later that month, Facebook announced it was accelerating its efforts to remove fake fans and “likes” system-wide. Facebook reiterated they “do not and have never permitted the purchase or sale of Facebook Likes.” Shortly after that crackdown, PMW lost about 4,000 fans and their total page “likes” dropped down to approximately 6,100.

Apparently undeterred, sometime in the week of Sept. 17th, PMW’s page displayed 3,000 new “likes” or fans, with the most popular city listed as Chemnitz, Germany.  Again, toward the end of September, another spike of 9,000 “likes” occurred. The most popular city for the page at that moment? Bangkok, Thailand.

On Sept. 27th, Facebook confirmed it was purging fake “likes” and the impact was reported widely around the world (see herehere and here). Around the same time, the daily average of new fans on PMW’s page dropped from several thousand to a few hundred.

Still, once again, in mid-October, PMW’s page gained a quick and easy 3,000 likes. As of Oct. 24, the most popular city on PMW’s Facebook page was Vilnius, Lithuania.

Overall, from mid-August to last week, PMW added 16,000 “likes”, all generated in a few, multi-day bursts, which coincided with the days the site was most popular in the Philippines, Germany, Thailand and Lithuania.

“It’s probably not surprising that the same group that distorts the truth and tries to confuse voters would go so far as to buy their supposed ‘grassroots’ fan base and violate the terms of Facebook,” said WUM campaign manager Zach Silk. “Clearly, our opponents don’t give a hoot about the truth. It’s just hard to believe that people in Southeast Asia or Northern Europe care all that much about Referendum 74 in Washington.”

 (High resolution images of the graphs and screen captures are available in a 3.7mb zip file. Contact Andy Grow if you’d like it sent to you.)