Do you “like” strong mayor?
I don’t mean whether or not you’re going to vote for Measure L, the November ballot initiative that would give Mayor Kevin Johnson a lot more power at City Hall.
I mean, do you like strong mayor on Facebook?
As of last week, on August 27, not many people did. The Vote Yes On L Facebook page had fewer than 100 likes:
All right, so politicians are often really crappy at social media. Not everyone can be LowBrau. But less than 100 likes is pretty bad. I mean, even Jeff Harris for City Council has nearly 500 likes, and he has way less money in his campaign coffers than the mayor.
Anyway, apparently someone over at Team Strong Mayor HQ took notice, rolled up their sleeves, and got to social networking.
By the next day, August 28, the Vote Yes on L page had more than 1,100 likes:
See that big line going up; that means somebody at Team Strong Mayor paid for Facebook likes.
And then they paid for some more the next day, when it jumped to nearly 3,000:
As of today, they hit 3,267. The best part is that, according to Facebook, Vote Yes on L’s “most engaged insights” are 18 to 24-year-olds in Istanbul, Turkey. You know, bread-and-butter local voters:
Anyway, the same spambot phenomenon happened on Twitter: A few hundred fake accounts suddenly started following Vote Yes on L, or @voteyesonL. Registered voters like these folk:
Also last week, the old @the4000 Twitter account—the one pro-Kings arena groups used to fight to keep the subsidy vote off the June ballot—became “More Accountable Gov,” or @moreaccountable. So the account, instead of re-Tweeting Kings stuff like this:
— Sactown Royalty (@sactownroyalty) December 23, 2013
Now posts stuff like this:
Measure L demands higher standards of conduct through a new Ethics Committee and Code of Ethics.
— MoreAccountableGov (@MoreAccountable) August 26, 2014
What’s this all mean? Well, part of it is just politics-as-usual and social-media inside baseball. Paying for friends on Facebook and Twitter might be standard practice; I wouldn’t know. (I’ve heard of local bands doing it, though—and how lame is that.)
What I do know is that when politicians buy Facebook likes and Twitter followers, it creates a false perception of popular support. That’s probably textbook electioneering in most circles. But it’s worth asking:
If Team Strong Mayor is willing to fake Facebook and Twitter numbers, what else are they willing to fake?