Preserve Marriage Washington (PMW), the campaign against Referendum 74 to approve marriage equality in the northwest state, apparently felt the need to buy friends to look like a relevant player. Washington United for Marriage (WUM) researched some conspicuous activity on the anti-gay group’s Facebook page and found that its growth was marked by huge sudden spikes in “Likes” corresponding with days the “most popular city” supporting the page was in a foreign country.
The first spike took place between August 20 and 22, when PMW jumped from about 2,500 Facebook fans to over 10,000. During the same time, the most popular city was New York City, then finally Makati, Philippines. Shortly thereafter, Facebook started cracking down on fake “Likes” and PMW suddenly lost 4,000 fans. Since then, there have been three additional spikes, corresponding with apparent popularity in Chemnitz, Germany; Bangkok, Thailand; and Vilnius, Lithuania. Every spike had a similar drop-off days later as Facebook weeded out the fake fans. In total, the group has tried to add 16,000 fake “Likes” since August (click to see full-size):
WUM campaign manager Zach Silk pulled no punches in calling out PMW’s blatant dishonesty:
SILK: 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. 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.
There does seem to be a fair correlation between a campaign’s honest advocacy and the support that it garners. The Approve 74 campaign showed what a normal progression of Facebook support looks like: