Facebook quickly zaps fake Lisa Helps page

For the second time in a matter of weeks, the City of Victoria has taken steps to shut down a fake Facebook page posing as belonging to Mayor Lisa Helps.

The city complained to Facebook Monday after a site appeared using her picture and posting false information about council decisions.

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“The fact that they’re using my picture, that they’re using the banner that’s on my Twitter feed, and that they’re actually even writing like me — with positivity and exclamation marks — it is very worrisome,” Helps said.

“And I think it’s most worrisome because I work really hard to communicate as directly as possible with citizens through Twitter, through my blog and with face-to-face conversations, and it’s really troubling that somebody would use this tool to spread false information.

“It’s completely unacceptable,” Helps said.

Bill Eisenhauer, head of engagement, said the city became aware of the page about noon Monday and alerted Facebook that someone was impersonating Helps. The site was shut down two hours later.

“From what we could tell, it looked as if someone set it up at some point [the previous] evening,” he said.

“There were three posts, I think, and there was some sharing and comment on that. It certainly looked like some people did believe that it was an actual site from the mayor, so we took action as soon as we found out about it and, thankfully, Facebook acted quickly and shut it down.”

Helps said she would be less concerned if the page were clearly a spoof.

“Satire is fine,” she said. “I’ve got a very good sense of humour. This isn’t satire. It’s a deliberate spreading of misinformation, speaking in my voice. That’s very different.”

Helps said there’s little she can do to prevent people from creating phoney Facebook pages, but she suggested Facebook itself has a responsibility to verify the pages of public officials.

“What’s troubling is that when this kind of misinformation goes out, it makes it all that harder for citizens to actually know what is going on, what are the decisions that their council is making.”

Helps quit Facebook last March, calling it a “toxic echo chamber” that perpetuates negativity, fear and anger. She continues to publish a blog, post on Twitter and hold community drop-ins, where people can meet with her in person every two weeks.

lkines@timescolonist.com

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