After the attack on Italy’s prime minister Silvio Berlusconi yesterday, a number of Facebook pages sprang into life. Some Facebook pages praised the actions of Tartaglia, Berlusconi’s assailant, whereas others supported Berlusconi, and one seems to be fake.
I became curious when I noticed the names of a few people I knew listed as Berlusconi ‘fans’ on Facebook. Odd, I thought. As far as I knew, the people listed were not huge fans of Italy’s tanned supremo, to say the least.
In actual fact, the Sosteniamo SILVIO BERLUSCONI contro i FAN di massimo tartaglia page on Facebook- which has over 380,000 fans, is a re-hash of an existing page, or so I have been advised by one ‘fan’ who isn’t.
Upon hearing this, I asked some more questions – ironically, via the Facebook messaging system.
As a result of digging further, I discovered that what had happened is that someone, somehow renamed a Facebook page to give the impression that Berlusconi has more fans in Italy than perhaps he does.
This fake Facebook page has attracted more members this morning, and judging by some of the comments, many of the new members are genuine Berlusconi fans.
Update 15 December 12:24 Italian time
– the link below no longer works – looks as though the page/group has been removed – a version of the page is still in Google’s cache system here:
Google Cache version: Sosteniamo SILVIO BERLUSCONI contro i FAN di massimo tartaglia
This is the Facebook page in question:
Stop reading, start speaking
Stop translating in your head and start speaking Italian for real with the only audio course that prompt you to speak.
Sosteniamo SILVIO BERLUSCONI contro i FAN di massimo tartaglia – Translated: Let’s support Silvio Berlusconi against Massimo Tartaglia’s fans (Tartaglia = the man who attacked Berlusconi).
Found another Facebook friend who has become a Berlusconi fan – when advised, this person was a little surprised!
Update: 14 December, 2009
Italian media has now cottoned on to the fake Facebook page – and the websites of leading Italian newspapers Corriere della Sera and La Repubblica are carrying stories on it and on other Facebook pages which were started after the attack on Berlusconi. At the same time, Italian politicians are discussing whether sites which inspire violence and hatred should be obscured.
Thousands of Italians who have been hoodwinked into ‘supporting’ Silvio Berlusconi have been inundating the fake page with comments which indicate that they do not really want to be considered Berlusconi fans – to say the least judging by some of the language used – as those with a good knowledge of Italian will notice. There are some messages of support too – but not that many.
For a prime minister who claims to be the best Italy has ever had in 150 years, Berlusconi does seem to be surprisingly unpopular at the moment.
Berlusconi is reputedly suffering from a severe headache after the attack – one of many headaches Italy’s prime minister has at the moment, one might observe.
Is Facebook Sailing Towards Trouble?
It is a good idea to be careful when using Facebook. As this incident shows, you may end up being tarred with a brush which you did not want to be tarred with.
Friends may lose their trust in you, and potential employers may decide that there are better people for the job.
Web 2.0 is fantastic – but it can be exploited. The Facebook people need to bear this in mind – otherwise Facebook could well end up being closed down as a result of huge lawsuits or by droves who leave the social network in search of safer pastures.