BP has allegedly been hiring internet “trolls,” disruptive site visitors who purposely attack and provoke users wanting to have honest and thoughtful interaction, to attack environmentalists, scientists, and critics of BP of America (BAP). An anonymous whistleblower with the Government Accountability Office in Washington D.C. has come forth with information that points to BP and Ogilvy, its PR firm, for paying people to harass Facebook users.
Ogilvy & Mather, the New York City-based, international PR firm, has been handling the BPA Facebook page since the 2010 oil spill disaster.
The whistleblower, Marie (she wishes to keep her identity hidden), compiled a file of complaint letters from harassees, computer screenshots of the abuse, and a list of profiles used by those who harassed BP critics.
“They definitely have come after me,” said Marie. “I’ve been threatened, which is one reason why I try to keep my identity anonymous. I’ve kept it anonymous through the Government Accountability Project inquiry. But a lot of people have been threatened, it’s not just me.”
Those who imposed opposing opinions on the BPA Facebook page were met with harsh opposition from BP trolls. This occurs despite the claim that BP wants its Facebook page to be an open forum, respecting all viewpoints. If anyone opposed BP in any way, BP trolls insisted that Corexit is safe and became combative and abusive, said Marie. But the harassment didn’t stay on the BP page. BP trolls would follow users to their personal pages and continue harassment there.
The information that Marie gathered shows that the trolls resorted to very demeaning avenues of online abuse, from racist, sexist, and other demeaning forms of verbal abuse, as well as threatening users with legal action and violence.
In a complaint letter sent to BP Consumer Relations Department by an anonymous group of concerned citizens, they noted that:
At all periods of time since the spill, there have been regular and consistent pro-BP commentators on your page that we believe to be employees or subcontractors, that are continually abusive, demeaning, racist, sexist and intimidating in their responses to members of the general public who come to offer an opposing opinion of question. There have also been comments that are extremely insensitive to the 11 victims that died on the rig [Deepwater Horizon disaster], as well as very insensitive remarks about the wildlife that has perished because of the spill.
One troll even resorted to supposed and veiled gun threats to a BP opposer. Going by only “Griffin,” this BP troll makes several allusions to gun violence to harass and distress other users. According to the GAP, “Griffin” used a picture of a BP opposer’s pet bird “into a target in the crosshairs of a gun, it looks like he actually shot it for target practice because there are bullet holes in it, and then posted it on Ken’s Facebook page, along with photos of a small arsenal of semi-automatic weapons.”
Another instance occurred involving “Griffin” and an environmentalism supporter who posted a picture of a rendition of Mother Earth saying “Mother Earth Has Been Waiting for Her Day in Court, BP.” “Griffin” posted a comment to the picture that said “A few rounds from a .50 cal will stop that b**ch.”
The trolls have even been reported as going after users’ personal life and information. Trolls have reportedly tracked and posted the IP addresses of users, contacted employers, threatening to contact family members, and used photos of family members to create fake profiles.
BP trolls have attempted character defamation also. They’ve insinuated that some commenters are “child molesters” by posting the photos of actual sex offenders on fake profiles that have the same name as some commenters.
One of the trolls favorite tactics, however, is the mass reporting of their targets with the ultimate goal of having their targets completely removed from Facebook.
“That is one of the trolls weapons of choice,” said Marie. “They will mass report people and try to get your account suspended. And it can get suspended anywhere from three to 30 days, just depending on how many reports you’ve had against you. And if you get enough reports against you, you can removed from Facebook altogether. It’s a chilling effect.”
Although Marie has lots of information and evidence that seem to tie Ogilvy and BP together via these BP trolls, an investigation is being launched further into the issue to conclusively determine BP’s involvement.
Marie staunchly believes that BP is at the heart of the pro-BP, Facebook trolls.
“I have no doubt that they are,” said Marie. “The Government Accountability Project, through the inquiry they’re conducting for me, is trying to find out. But we are being stonewalled on the other end as far as BP doing some type of an internal investigation into these connections that I’ve uncovered.”
BP could try to kill this thing dead in the water, however. Marie said that she and her group are at a bit of an impasse while they await a response from BP’s legal channels. The chances of which appear to be slim, said Marie.
Correction: It was originally written that the Government Accountability Project submitted the complaint letters to BP. In actuality, the complaint letters were submitted by an anonymous group of concerned citizens.