Saturday, January 05, 2019
Politicians in Rhode Island are alleging that fake social media accounts are perpetuating false information in the state and the actions are only increasing since the 2018 election.
Former Republican East Greenwich Town Council candidate Chad Callanan — and now former Rhode Island gubernatorial candidate Ken Block — are questioning social media accounts which they say are presenting to be someone other than who they are — and saying they are spreading lies.
Callanan called out the Twitter profile “RIKingPin,” which in its profile lists “Navy, Scotch, RollTide” — Callanan is a Navy veteran and Alabama booster — and that the profile is listed as being managed by “John Gaalt” on Facebook, which lists one image of a young man which is utilized multiple times on stock image sites.
“I was not surprised,” said Callanan of the Twitter account he says is purporting to be him. “I saw some of the language that had been used during the campaign — vitriolic — just to make people look bad. And I saw a lot of the same in this Twitter account.”
Callanan has been an outspoken critic of both the Town of East Greenwich’s financial status, as well as its contracts with the town fire department.
Accounts in Question
“If your arguments stand, make your case, and stand behind your words,” said Callanan, who continues to be politically active following the election. “I think the act [of using a fake acccount] is in itself is cowardly. It didn’t offend or frighten me, but it proved I was on to something. If you have to go these depths, you’re failing.”
One Tweet on the “RIKingPin” account mocked Callanan holding a doctorate in leadership — when he was questioning why the East Greenwich Town Council and School Committee were scheduled to meet on the same night on contentious issues.
“The reason you schedule the TC and SC meetings on same night is you load one with an emotional issue ‘validick-tory-n’ while you at the other one, hand over the town to the unions. Did I mention I have a PhD,” Tweeted the RIKingPin account on December 18.
“The most important thing is that it’s undermining people’s voices. If you insult someone online, you’re bullying them. And in doing that you, you’ll make people not want to get involved and run for office and have their voice heard, because they’re afraid of this kind of behavior, ” said Callanan, who said he was not deterred by the account.
“There are a lot of people who died on a lot of battlefields to allow people to have a voice, and this type of action strips them of that,” said Callanan. “Be careful of accepting friend requests and who you follow. There’s a group that believes their ideology is more important than the system of government we have. You have to negotiate, and you have to deal with people with you don’t agree with [in politics]. But by using fake accounts, you have the ability to shut people down.”
Block Blasts “People Behaving Badly”
The “RIKingPin” Twitter account posts that it is managed by “John Gaalt” on Facebook — an account which shows one picture of a young man.
Entered into Google image search, the photo lists multiple results for a stock image on various sites — and “John Galt” is the name of a character in Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged.” Message requests to the Gaalt account were not responded to online.
One recent Tweet by the “RIKingPin” account called out former GOP candidate Block — and Block fired right back.
“Ken Block is a brave crusader of open records laws and a master of spreadsheets. His Excel skills, use of math, and always using formulas to find a ‘problem’ is pure genius. Being a spectator is often harder than being a participant. #spreadsheetwarrior #itsyourmoney,” Tweeted “RIKingPin.”
“Is this a parody account? Because it appears to be impersonating someone else’s @Twitter account. What kind of coward does things like this? If you want to come at me, do so in person, not hiding in the shadows snarking like a 4th grader. #GrowUp,” Block fired back.
Block weighed in on the issue when asked by GoLocalProv.
“The Twitter account you have asked me about blocked me soon after I made the comment you showed,” said Block. “Fake social media accounts played a prominent role in the Mueller investigations, and those investigations yielded prosecutions of individuals who attempted to sway elections via fake social media accounts.”
“So, from a law enforcement perspective – fake social media accounts and electioneering are a no-no. I think it shows a serious defect in character that a person would go to the trouble of setting up a fake account with the express purpose of deceiving others into thinking that the account is something that it is not,” said Block.
“Unfortunately, we will never fully rid ourselves of adults behaving badly on social media,” said Block.
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