General Assembly Candidate’s Facebook Page Filled with Fake, Russian Accounts

Tuesday, July 19, 2016


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Legitimate followers? Anthony Defilippo's Facebook page raises comparisons to failed candidate Anthony Gemma's spike in social media followers in 2012.

How is a candidate for General Assembly accumulating fake Facebook supporters -- and some from Russia?

Anthony Defilippo announced his candidacy for District 13 in Providence on Facebook on June 21, garnering over 270 likes on his status — at least half of whom were fake profiles, according to a investigation. 

A review of Defilippo’s Facebook page found status likes and comments by individuals with questionable profiles not from the United States, including a high number of Russian names, similar accounts sharing the same viral videos, and accounts with no photos or information -- at all.  

"I handle all the social media myself, I do have people helping out with page," said Defilippo on Monday.  Defelippo said he was unaware of the accounts that "liked" his campaign updates that were from Russia or had no photos or information, which accounted for over half of his "likes" at his campaign kick-off.

Multi-Candidate Race

The host of “The Anthony Show” and Roger Williams University student is running in a multi-candidate primary for incumbent Representative John Carnevale's seat, who is under investigation by the Rhode Island Board of Canvassers regarding his residency after Republican Party Chair Brandon Bell filed a complaint, following a WPRI investigation. 

Joshua Jay Beeman, David Marshall, Ramon Perez, and Lisa Scorpio had originally declared as District 13 challengers; the Providence Board of Canvassers along with the Secretary of State is verifying signatures for all races, which were due on Friday July 15.  See Qualified Candidates HERE

RI’s Social Media Glare

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Defilippo's announcement was "liked" by over one hundred fake accounts, with no profile photos or information.

Rhode Island candidates have come under media scrutiny for the accumulation of social medei supporters that might — or might not — have been legitimate in the past. 

In 2012, Rhode Island Congressional candidate Anthony Gemma’s rapid Twitter follower accumulation was questioned in a Politico piece by Steve Friess.

Gemma now has more than 519,000 Facebook fans —10 times more fans than the number of votes he received in his 2010 primary loss to Cicilline. It’s a seat Patrick Kennedy held for eight terms in a heavily Democratic area, and this time Gemma has a better shot because Cicilline’s approval ratings are spectacularly low.

But the small-town plumbing executive and self-described “social media guru” declined through his campaign staff to explain how he accumulated so many social media followers so fast. “The campaign does not comment on our social media strategy,” campaign spokesman Alex Morash said in an email.

Other candidates recently have been caught up in allegations that their campaigns were buying Twitter followers, including Romney and Newt Gingrich. That’s relatively easy to do online, costs only pennies apiece and is not illegal — only in violation of Facebook and Twitter terms of service. But an oversized social footprint that suggests mass appeal can be embarrassing for a campaign should it be revealed.

"If a candidate abuses the appropriate channels to gin up their followings, they risk hurting their reputation as a grass-roots candidate," said Amy Brown, a digital campaign strategist with Harris Media LLC who has worked with several national candidates.

Cicilline won the 2012 Democratic primary for the First Congressional District with 62% of the vote; Gemma got 30.2%. 

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An example of someone who "liked" Defilippo's campaign video -- the Arabic baby video was seen shared on most of the accounts that interacted with Defilippo's page.


Related Slideshow: Races to Watch in 2016 - RI Progressive Democrats

Sam Bell, State Director for the Rhode Island Progressive Democrats, ran through a list of races to watch at the GA in 2016. Bell noted that as of June 1, Progressive Dems had yet to make endorsements.  "This is just my take and analysis of these races," said Bell. 

Bell noted other races as well that weren't on the list. 

"Julie Casimiro, because of her positions on certain labor issues and some of her past work on education, but we view her as a real Democrat, we are certainly cheering her on, and some of our members may well help her out," said Bell, who noted it was similar for another Democrat. "Same for Lisa Tomasso, we certainly feel she is the much preferable candidate (to Republican Sherry) Roberts."

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1. House District 60

Incumbent: Rep. David Coughlin (D)

Challenger: David Norton (D)


"[Coughlin] is facing a strong challenger in Norton. I think the [PawSox] stadium issue really resonated with people in Pawtucket, and the problem with the way politics works in RI. Pawtucket has a unique understanding of that, and Coughlin is out of step with the district and vulnerable," said Bell. 

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2. House District 54

Incumbent: Rep. William O'Brien (D)

Challenger: Bill Deware (D)

North Providence

"Bill's the head of the Rhode Island Radiologist Association, he's been active in UNAP. O'Brien has painted himself as an established politician. He wanted to lower the corporate income tax. On economic issues he's out of step with the middle class in his district," said Bell. 

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3. House District 67

Incumbent: Rep. Jan Malik (D)

Challenger: Jason Knight (D)

Barrington, Warren

"Malik has been extremely ideologically conservative, with an 'A plus' rating from the NRA. He voted against marriage equality and his district isn't extremely right wing -- it's very liberal on social issues. And Warren is a place where you saw two successful progressive town council primaries last cycle, knocking out established [Democrats]," said Bell. 

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4. House District 3

Incumbent: Rep. Thomas Palangio (D)

Challenger: Moira Walsh (D)


Walsh, a Classical High School and Rhode Island College Grad, who has been an organizer for Jobs with Justice, is challenging Pelangio on Smith Hill.

Pelangio served as a State Rep from 1992-2002; he was elected again in 2012 and then again in 2014.

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5. House District 69

Incumbent: Open (after Ray Gallison stepped down)

Challenger: Susan Donovan (D)


"The machine has still yet to put up someone to replace Gallison. People are really excited about change, especially with what happened there.  I'd be surprised if leadership even wants to go in there," said Bell. 

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6. House District 25

Incumbent: Rep. Jared Nunes (D)

Challenger: Kathleen Decker (D)

Coventry, West Warwick

"There's two races in West Warwick, and Nunes is one of them. Remember, he proposed "tolls everywhere"," said Bell, referencing his assessment of Nunes public-private funding proposal for roads. 

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7. House District 27

Incumbent: Rep. Pat Serpa (D)

Challenger: Nicholas Delmenico (D)

Warwick, West Warwick, Coventry

"Serpa just canceled the hearings on 38 Studios. West Warwick is a community that's been damaged by machine politics," said Bell. 

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8. House District 22

Incumbent: Joseph Solomon, Jr. (D)

Challenger: Jennifer Siciliano (D)


"She jumped in last minute to run against Solomon again -- and again, he is someone who's endorsed by the NRA. I think he's out of step with the party's core values, and it's a community that knows we need change," said Bell.

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9. House District 24

Incumbent: Rep. Joe Trillo (R)

Challenger: Evan Shanley (D)


"Yes, Trillo is a Republican, he's Trump's guy here. But he's tied to the political establishment. That's the way the establishment works," said Bell.

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10. House District 72

Incumbent: Rep. Dan Reilly (R)

Challenger: Linda Finn (D)

Middletown, Portsmouth

"Finn's running again against Reilly, who it's no secret is dealing with major legal issues with his family. He's vulnerable," said Bell. 

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11. House District 39

Incumbent: Justin Price (R)

Challenger: Larry Valencia (D)

Hopkinton, Exeter, Richmond

Valencia ran and lost in 2008, won in 2010 and 2012, and was beaten by Price in 2014. 

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12. Senate District 11

Incumbent: Sen. John Pagliarini, Jr. (R)

Challenger: James Seveney (D)

Portsmouth, Bristol, Tiverton

"I like this rematch. Especially in a Presidential year, where the Republicans will have to defend Trump," said Bell. 

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13. Senate District 34

Incumbent: Sen. Elaine Morgan (R)

Challenger: Catherine Cool Rumsey (D)

Charles, Exeter, Hopkington, Richmond, West Greenwich

"Morgan beat Rumsey in 2014, in a year that the state's Democratic candidate, Gina Raimondo, narrowly carried the race. It was uniquely bad for down ballot races (for the Dems). Now with Trump at the top of the ticket for the Rs, it will be hard for Morgan," said Bell. 

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14. Senate District 21

Incumbent: Sen. Nick Kettle (R)

Challenger: Margaux Morisseau (D)


Progressive Morisseau lost to Kettle in 2014 and is making another run at the seat in 2016. 

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15. Senate District 7

Incumbent: Sen. Frank Ciccone (D)

Challenger: Doris De Los Santos (D)

Providence, North Providence

De Los Santos is making another run at the seat held by Ciccone since 2002; she ran unsuccessfully in 2014. 


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