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Women’s March Facebook Scam Targets Your Pockets, Not Protests

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Trouble stirred when a Facebook scam created fake pages for the next Women’s March, sending march attendees for a loop.

The 2017 and 2018 Women’s Marches gained such popularity that scammers used that momentum to create fake Facebook pages in order to sell merchandise. A network of pages dedicated to the 2019 March were traced back to Bangladesh, linking it to websites that spread false information about the protests, namely the wrong cities and wrong dates.

An investigation into the fake pages was launched by CNN with help from researchers at the Shorenstein Institute at the Harvard Kennedy School, which discovered that sites were designed to make profits from the protests.

“What is particularly notable about the relative sophistication of dozens of fabricated Women’s March Facebook pages is the co-opting of official images and logos, hashtag hijacking, using pre-existing hashtags such as #womenswave to attract attention to the pages, as well as the localised targeting of urban, suburban, and rural communities across the country,” said Benjamin Decker, a Shorenstein Center research fellow.

 

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So why was Bangladesh involved? A few of the fake events linked to pages selling unofficial Women’s March merchandise on Viralstyle and Teespring. These websites allow users to design and sell T-shirts and other merchandise without having to do the work to print and produce it themselves.

An investigation by Facebook found that hundreds of LinkedIn users listed themselves as being based in Bangladesh and having an affiliation with the California-based Teespring and Florida-based Viralstyle. The investigation found that 1,700 pages were created by the scammers, with a few pages gaining more than 100,000 RSVPs from Facebook users.

Though Facebook removed the pages that listed the wrong dates, 100 new pages appeared shortly after to take their place. “There are a lot of ways that it is damaging and dangerous,” said Ruby Sinreich, an activist for the Women’s March. “People show up on the wrong date and don’t go to the actual event. People leave feeling angry and frustrated instead of feeling unified.”

Though a Facebook spokesperson was not available for comment, they gave a statement to CNN, saying, “These Pages and events appear to have been created in order to profit from people interested in the event by selling march-related merchandise. We continue to investigate, remove additional associated fake events and Pages, and take action against those involved in creating them.”

The actual march date is Saturday, January 19, 2019.

 

Jessica Baker

Jessica Baker is a Journalism and Emerging Media major at KSU and an intern at Hers Magazine as well as AllWrite Publishing.

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