You Decide: Is it Appropriate to Troll a Political Candidate’s Facebook Page for ‘Friends’?

Is it appropriate to troll a political candidate’s Facebook Page for ‘Friends’? How about spamming local business profiles with politics?

Social media took a step to the “creepy” side Sunday morning for several people who follow Stillwater mayoral candidate Ted Kozlowski’s Facebook page, Ted for Stillwater.

At least 30-40 of the people who follow Kozlowski’s page randomly received “friend” requests—just seconds apart—from Matt Behning, a moderator on the Facebok page, “Washington County Watchdog,” and the profile of a purported Stillwater resident none of them knew, “Scott Cosentino.”

Kozlowski posted this to his candidate page on Sunday:

“ATTN: Beware of a fake friend invite from a guy named “Scott Cosentino.” He’s got my campaign button as his profile pic. He’s really Matt Behning our self appointed “Washington Co Watchdog” and he is trying to spam my friends and supporters. This guy has been sending me emails from fake accounts and using fake names but refuses to meet in person or talk on the phone. Now he’s spamming local businesses facebook pages. I think he is probably a bit sad and could probably use a big hug.”

Kozlowski continued: “I just want to let everyone know that I feel terrible that my campaign has caused this crazy person to start spamming my family, friends & supporters.”

One longtime Stillwater resident and business owner who asked that their name not be published said she thought it was weird, and really crosses a line.

“When I got the friend requests, I could see Matt B was Wash. Co Watchdog, and the Scott person had Ted’s logo in his profile,” she said. “I looked at mutual friends, which is what I do when I get a friend request. There was only one mutual friend. I felt something was off right away.”

Then she saw Kozlowski’s warning about the “fake friend request.”

“Matt B and the other Scott (same person or not) have every right to post their opinion – but when they start friending folks just because they may support a local candidate – I feel that is really crossing a line,” she said. “It feels a bit like an invasion. I found it very creepy and I think it could discourage folks from running for office.”

Others echoed her thoughts in the comments of this post on Facebook:

 

Mr. Behning shared this with Stillwater Current Sunday night:

 

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In response, I have asked Mr. Behning, and Mr. Cosentino, to explain why they simultaneously sent friend requests to 30-40 people they don’t know:

“You’ve got to be kidding me, Matt. This is the biggest bunch of BS I’ve ever seen. I believe in watchdog journalism, but watchdogs don’t manufacture “stories” so they have something to spam people with. The two of you friended the same people, on multiple occasions, minutes apart, because “you text him after you apparently tried to friend up with the same people?” Please, explain how that went down… given most of those people don’t know either of you.

With all due respect, Scott, my apologies if the company you keep makes me question this, but if you would like to meet up in person so I can understand how this happened, my phone number is 651-261-2764. Feel free to give me a call and I’ll meet you anywhere in Stillwater for a story about this. I assume you want to get your story out since Matt is posting this here for you.”

Here’s Mr. Behning’s response:

“Thanks Shawn for leaving it up. Scott probably doesn’t know about Stillwater Current (no offense). We met in 2010 (i believe) at a blessing of the bikes ride in Owatana. I texted him at 4am or so in the morning giving him crap about wanting to vote for Kozlowski asking him how he’s going to like his property tax next year. He got pissed and he ended up accepting my challenge to seek out the truth for himself. He obviously sucks at facebook thinking he needs to friend up with all the fans of Ted to see what they post…. He knew I was doing it because it’s what I do as a concerned tax payer trying to get people involved with the local politics. So now I feel responsible for making his worst nightmare about having a tarnished online record come true. It’d be one thing if good old ted would have left his two comments up. But that would be the honest thing to do, so I’m not surprised.”

Here’s a post “Scott Cosentino” wrote on Washington County Watchdog:

“I’m a real person. I’ve lived here for ten years with my wife and two kids. I don’t feel I need to explain more. All I’m guilty of is forwarding Ted Kozlowski an e-mail I received from Matt that asked him to simply explain what can he do to stop the trend of increasing taxes. I didn’t realize he had all this hate against the guy for just asking a question and laying out his case. I found out and wanted to get an answer for myself. I didn’t have a facebook account (avoided for all these years lol) so I got on to give my support for the truth. Got to be honest. I was pulling for Ted. I too thought Washington County Watchdog was a right wing page. But I knew if he continued to refuse to answer the question they want him to answer then I’d have my answer. I friend requested some of his supporters to see what they would think. We’ll see if he takes this note down too. I really hope he doesn’t. I’m just a regular guy trying to make the best decision.”

 As Mr. Behning said, you decide.

Is it appropriate to troll a candidate’s Facebook page, spam local businesses and send random friend requests to people who follow a page? Let me know what you think in the comments below.