UPDATE (8/8/11): @kbockman, and all of the 25 fake Twitter accounts we listed, have now been removed. Publiaffairsinformant.com and Keith’s Facebook page are also down. The links to those accounts previously indicated below now show screenshots taken before the accounts were removed.
The office of a former Nebraska Senator working for the American Petroleum Institute appears to have set up more than a dozen fake Twitter accounts to promote the KeystoneXL tar sands pipeline.
Followers of the #tarsands hashtag on Twitter may have noticed a strange spike in posts yesterday morning. Within three minutes, fifteen accounts (here’s the list the list has since grown) all posted the message “#tarsands the truth is out! [link]” linking to API’s web page about oil sands. Then came another post from the same accounts, this time linking to the Nebraska Energy Forum, one of 26 state-based-front-groups sponsored by API in the lead up to the 2012 election. Then a flurry of posts late last night from those same accounts, all linking to a post on “publicaffairsinformant.com” touting KeystoneXL and linking back to the Nebraska Energy Forum.
WTF? Let’s connect the dots.
First, fourteen of those accounts are clearly fake. The simultaneous posts were all sent via the “Netvibes Official Widget” that allows users to post to multiple Twitter accounts at the same time. All fourteen accounts were established in the same week in July, most on the same day. Each of their avatars appear to have been pulled from the web. One was pulled from NebraskaDUILawyers.com. All use variations on very simple names (jimjohnson16, richhoward1) and have very similar “everyperson” type descriptions (“Environmentally and economically concerned citizen looking for real facts. We need to make wise choices in during these uncertain times [sic]“), and all tend to retweet one another, bombard journalists with favorable opinions on the KeystoneXL pipeline, and generally cheerlead for tar sands.
The fifteenth account is kbockmann aka Keith Bockmann aka kbdank, a party boy from Omaha who established that publicaffairsinformant.com website on July 15th.
Here’s where it gets interesting: Keith also registered abboudlawfirm.com, an Omaha-based law firm. He describes himself as a paralegal and is a friend of Greg Abboud on Facebook. Greg’s partner at Abboud Law Firm is Chris Abboud, the former Nebraska Senator, whom I presume to be Greg’s brother. Chris, meanwhile, is also a tobacco lobbyist and “Grassroots Coordinator for the Nebraska Energy Forum.” And finally, the maiden name of Greg’s wife appears to be Bockmann (not hard to figure out, but I won’t implicate her with links here).
So to recap: It looks very much like the “grassroots” being coordinated by Chris Abboud are the fabrications of his employee and nephew, Keith Bockmann.
If you’re on Twitter MySpace drop @kbockmann kbdank a line. Let’s see if he continues to defend his “real supporters.” You may also want to drop the Omaha Police Union a line to let them know their what their $10K/month lobbyist is doing on the side.
From August 20 – September 3, concerned people from across the continent — students, scientists, Indigenous peoples, church groups, environmentalists, parents, celebrities, and more — are gathering in Washington for a mass act of civil disobedience at the White House. Over 1,500 individuals are already registered to join this wave of sustained sit-ins to send a clear message to the President: The People are saying NO to the 2000-mile climate-destroying Keystone XL pipeline.
If you’ve had it with climate change and astroturf stunts like this, and are ready to engage in a new level of community activism, you can register to join the action at TarSandsAction.org.