Fake Campaign Pages Muddy The Waters On Major Acadiana Issues [OPINION]
Another day, another outraged listener who says a candidate for Lafayette Mayor-President is unfit for office. This type of mid-morning email is not unique for me, but as the KPEL Brand Manager, I feel it's my duty to respond. The listener complaint was about a post from a spoof page that we can only imagine is run by a political opponent.
This is an excerpt from that email:
My wife showed me the posts that show Carlee sponsoring a “Drag Queen Story hour” and she has called the petroleum industry “The Evil Empire”. Does she not realize that the petrochemical industry is what made Lafayette the city that it has become.
As you can imagine, that takeaway really bothered me as someone who has covered these campaigns since day one. So, I responded. More on that to come.
In a post, disguised to look like it's written by the Carlee Alm-Labar campaign, the petroleum industry is called "Evil Empire". Of course, the candidate never said that, but what about the Facebook users who don't know better? To them, it's fact and that's where the problem starts. To be clear, the picture below is from the facebook page "Carlee For Lafayette Progress"- not the official Carlee For Lafayette page.
This page is FAKE.
Another page aimed at discrediting the Josh Guillory campaign posted a recent poll:
This page... also FAKE.
This type of page has been around, in one way or another, since Facebook became a pivotal tool in our nation's political process. Facebook users can hide behind a fake page and target elections anywhere. As you can see by the posts, these are pages run by someone locally. This is exactly what some have decried as election interference on a national level.
Now before you get all "Facebook concerned" and send me hate email, I understand what the intent may be. You may say, "Rob, this is satire. It's like The Onion." I hear you, but not all readers can tell the difference. You have muddied the waters so much, that the average voter doesn't know up from down. The question is what duty do these page operators have to make it clear their content is fake? In the fast-moving world of politics, that question almost never gets an answer.
We have major issues to deal with this election season. The economy, jobs, flooding, infrastructure, education- the list goes on. These pages do nothing to advance those important conversations. For the candidate's part, I have yet to find a definitive link between them and these pages.
The Josh Guillory for Mayor-President campaign spoke out against the Carlee For Lafayette Progress page in a statement posted to Facebook:
So for anyone who may need this, please send it to them. This is a list of the official websites and Facebook pages for the Lafayette Mayor-President candidates. And if you're one of the people behind these pages, ask yourself what it's accomplishing.
We can do better. We deserve better.
Back to the email where this story started. I responded with the following links to the actual pages and explained that the links he sent were from a fake page. I got a nice note back thanking me for the corrected information. And that's what we do here. Every morning, Bernadette Lee and myself wade through all of this for you on KPEL. We bring the news to you with perspective and context. Thank you for allowing us to do what we do. Here is the list of the official online outlets of all four candidates for Mayor-President of Lafayette: