By B.L. Ochman
On Wednesday, Sept 19, at midnight, Chase Bank will end voting for an annual Facebook contest called Chase Community Giving, a program that lets charities compete using Facebook votes for $5,000,000 in cash grants.
Every year, since 2009, accusations of vote tampering and other voting improprieties have been reported, and this year is no different. Chase has ignored the issues this year, and every year.
Whose fault is it, and who should be fixing it? Chase has no comment. For years!
The latest accusation is made by Alex Aliksanyan, Founder and President of DogsInDanger.com, which is entered in the competition. “Unscrupulous cheaters are stealing these much-needed funds under Chase and Facebook’s noses,” he says. In fact, anyone could easily buy enough votes to win the contest with only about $1000.
The vote tampering was reported to Chase management, says Aliksanyan, and has so far been ignored.
Here’s a brief chronology of voting irregularity issues that have been raised each year of the contest and ignored by Chase:
– Slashdot reported voting improprieties in 2009, which were ignored by Chase.
– In 2009, the NY Times reported that three charities claimed to have been unfairly disqualified because of Chase’s fear of associating its name with their missions. This led to a call for a boycott of Chase.
– Huffington Post reported voting Chase Giving Contest fraud in 2010
– Well-respected blogger and non-profit marketing consultant Beth Kanter also noted the controversy in 2010
– Digital Journal reported multiple robo-voting issues in 2011, all of which were ignored by Chase
– A young woman who writes the blog No Poster Girl wrote a four-part series about cheating in the Chase Community Giving Contest
– DogsInDanger reports fake Facebook profiles and buying of votes. Chase ignores them.
How cheaters game Facebook for votes.
Contest Mob explained how cheating can happen within Facebook Vote Exchange. Methods include exchanging votes, creating fake Facebook profiles, and buying votes from unscrupulous services like Social RankUp, which will sell you 1,000 Facebook contest votes for $110.
A DogsIn Danger representative, Dan Koifman, told me that the organization conducted an undercover investigation in which they found several technology firms that claimed to have enabled other organizations to successfully rig online competitions. These companies offered to sell DogsInDanger thousands of votes in the Chase Giving contest for just pennies per vote. The vote tampering issue was promptly reported to Chase Giving management. As of this writing, no response has been received from Chase.
Using this fake Facebook network, Koifman explained, it is possible to win the top $250,000 prize with just about a thousand dollars invested in buying votes. According to Facebook’s own estimates, over 83 million Facebook accounts are fakes.
DogsInDanger.com is a national 501(3) charity that helps save the lives of dogs scheduled to die in shelters. After monitoring voting patterns of many of their competitors, DogsInDanger.com executives claim to have found clear examples of a large percentage of votes were coming from seemingly fake accounts.
Chase contest rules absolve the company of any responsibility for voting fraud:
“Chase is not responsible for, nor is it required to count, in its sole and absolute discretion, late, lost, misdirected, unlawful or illicit votes, votes cast for Eligible Nominated Charities later determined to be ineligible, votes achieved through automated means by registering more than one user profile, using another Eligible Voter’s or Eligible Nominator’s e-mail account, Facebook account, and name, as well as those that are achieved through other fraudulent or inappropriate means, including, without limitation, offering prizes or other inducements to member of the public, as determined by Chase in its sole discretion, or displaying unsportsmanlike conduct or in a manner otherwise inconsistent with these Program Rules.”
Facebook rules ban fake profiles
Here’s the Facebook policy, which says “Fake timelines created to imitate real people (impostor accounts) are not allowed on Facebook,” and shows how to report them. But then again, first you’d have to know the profile was fake. And have you ever tried to reach a human at Facebook? Good luck if you do.
So if Chase isn’t responsible for fake votes, and Facebook continues to do nothing about them, who’ll win the contest? Stay tuned.