A member of the Texas House of Representatives is being criticized over his use of sockpuppets and no, he wasn’t playing with children’s toys. He used an anonymous Facebook page to fight against a bond election in his hometown and the mayor is not happy.
If you haven’t heard the term before, a sockpuppet is a fake online name or identity created by someone for a particular purpose — such as winning an election, for instance.
Some people can run an entire cadre of sockpuppets arguing both sides of an issue, having them debate each other in an effort to change the minds of readers. This was a key idea in Russia’s disinformation campaign during our last election.
In the case reported this week in the Texas Tribune, State Rep. Kyle Biedermann, R-Fredericksburg, created an anonymous Facebook page to argue against a $12.7 million bond. Biedermann also publicly opposed the bond, but the Facebook page did not list his, or any other, name.
We’ve had the same issue here in Henderson County. I have seen multiple anonymous Facebook pages that were created for political purposes. As the guy who runs Henderson County Now, I’ve had to ban “people” that comment on the page, but are obviously from fraudulent accounts.
To these sockpuppeteers I say, “You are not Silence Dogood!”
In 1722, 16-year-old Ben Franklin wrote a series of letters to the editor to the New England Courant under the name Silence Dogood. He used the pseudonym because the newspaper was published by his older brother and Ben’s letters had been turned down multiple times under his own name.
Ben Franklin wanted to publish his thoughts under his own name but couldn’t.
That’s not what is happening with today’s social media, where anyone with an internet connection can be a publisher. No, with Facebook and Twitter sockpuppets, someone wants to bend and direct our thoughts without us knowing who they are.
I don’t like the thought of being manipulated, do you?
So I will continue to ban fake accounts when I find them and I will not share from anonymous accounts with an obvious axe to grind. I hope you will do the same.
(Follow me on Instagram/Twitter @mvhannigan)