You just stumbled across Donald Trump’s Facebook page and you can’t wait to tell him how much you love him.
But is it really Donald Trump?
An Indiana man has made a living working for celebrities to identify, and get taken down, pages on Facebook and other platforms in which people pretend to be the celebrities.
While Kevin Long and his socialimposter.com haven’t yet been hired by the part-time Palm Beacher, Long says a little bit of work on his part uncovered more than 230 fake Trump pages. And more than 200 for Hillary Clinton.
Long, during a visit last week to West Palm Beach, said there almost assuredly are more; he searched only one spelling. He checks multiple alternative spellings for each of his clients.
Long has removed more than 26,000 phony accounts.
Long leaves alone obvious parody pages, “fan pages” or “community pages” independent pages created for people who either like or dislike a celebrity, and pages for people with the same names as celebrities. But he has plenty of material. In 2012, Facebook reported 83 million of its accounts were fakes.
Long did his searches manually for two years before developing an algorithm. He says only that his more than two dozen clients pay a monthly retainer of from $300 to “several thousand.”
Why do people do it? Maybe just because they can. Maybe it’s for kicks. Or to post lies such as “I eat puppies” to damage the reputation or a celebrity they don’t like. Or, in the extreme, to fraudulently solicit money.
“Even when it’s harmless, it’s still noise,” Long said.
Kenneth Copeland Ministries is one of the few clients Long has permission to identify. He says people posing as Copeland were urging people to help them do God’s work by sending money. But the dollars were going elsewhere; sometimes overseas.
“They would get emails from their legitimate followers (saying) ‘it doesn’t look right,’ ” Long said. He said another evangelist client, who he will not identify, had more than 100 phony social media pages.
Another client: the University of Alabama. He said often fans of other schools will post fake Alabama comments just before the big game to create bulletin board material for their own teams.