|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Adele M Stan
Washington Bureau Chief
HOW FACEBOOK AND GO DADDY SHIELD THE ANONYMOUS DIRTY TRICKSTERS AIDING SCOTT WALKER, WISCONSIN’S EMBATTLED REPUBLICAN GOVERNOR
WASHINGTON, D.C., December 5, 2011 — What responsibility do Web-hosting providers and domain registrants have for maintaining the integrity of an election? A new AlterNet investigation sheds light on the role played by Facebook and Web-hosting giant Go Daddy in a Wisconsin election that could significantly impact the political dynamic of the entire nation.
In the epic battle taking shape in Wisconsin for the recall of Gov. Scott Walker, a Tea Party-allied Republican, forces supporting the governor have launched an internet campaign involving the creation of at least one impostor Web site, as well as a Facebook page that calls outright for the destruction of recall petitions, a Class 1 felony in Wisconsin. Both entities hide behind the anonymity of their proprietors and administrators. Our AlterNet investigation found that Facebook and Go Daddy refuse to investigate or expose the creators of these attempts to interfere with the conduct of an electoral process.
The article titled “Bullies, Liars and Impostors: How Facebook and Go Daddy Shield Scott Walker’s Online Guerillas,” by AlterNet reporters Adele M. Stan and Steven Rosenfeld, features screen images of a Web site discovered by AlterNet that was designed to mimic the legitimate Web site of Occupy Madison that promoted the false claim that all of the petition signatures required to trigger a recall election of Walker had been collected — an obvious attempt to discourage the further collection of signatures. The domain for the impostor site is registered with a service provided by Go Daddy that is designed to shield identity of the site’s creator. Go Daddy, even after being notified of AlterNet’s discovery, declined to investigate, despite the site’s obvious violation of Go Daddy’s terms of service.
Before the site was suspended by its own anonymous administrators — not by Go Daddy — an organization for which the site solicited donations was traced to an Oklahoma man.
And despite numerous complaints from its users, Facebook has apparently made no attempt to suspend the publication of the fan page, Operation Burn Notice, which calls for the destruction of signed recall petitions, or to reveal the forces behind the page. The material posted Operation Burn Notice — which includes the mocking of people with disabilities and sexually explicit language, in addition to calling for the commission of a crime — continues to exist despite its violation of Facebook’s terms of service. One admitted administrator of the site appears to be based in Arizona; other participants include an activist for a county-level Republican Party operation in Wisconsin.
Facebook did not respond to AlterNet’s request for comment.
Wisconsin Attorney General John Byron Van Hollen, a Republican, has declined to take action against the proprietors of either site, citing First Amendment concerns.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is the Tea Party-allied Republican whose strong-arm tactics against public employees led to an 18-day occupation of the state capitol building by progressive activists earlier this year. Graeme Zielinski, communications director for the Wisconsin Democratic Party, said that efforts like these are designed to sow doubt in the integrity of the recall process, which has, by his account, been “remarkably smooth.” Activists claim to have collected more than 300,000 signatures so far on recall petitions. In order ton trigger the recall election, recall advocates are required to collect 540,000 signatures.
Rosenfeld and Stan are available for interviews.