One hundred and fifty of my friends have voted for the Whittemore Peterson Institute in the Chase Community Giving contest, and I really appreciate their help. Unfortunately, as of this morning, WPI has now been pushed down into ninth place. Two Hebrew academies came out of absolutely nowhere last night. Yesterday evening, the Sonia & Max Silverstein Academy jumped from fifth to fourth place, and this morning it’s in second. The Southern Connecticut Hebrew Academy also jumped ahead of us, into eighth place. It took many thousands of votes out of proportion of the previous voting patterns to make this happen.
The Sonia & Max Silverstein Academy’s “Big Idea” project is building a gym for their school. An ME/CFS friend and I were wondering at this – could a single school really be garnering more votes than our entire illness community? I started looking at the Silverstein Academy page. In the comments section, I found two comments referencing something interesting:
Arah White 4:46 pm
do we get our gold points already? Thank you. nice group
Aviel Dahan 4:41 pm
damn i havent got my gold points in weeworld wth…
Once I found those two, I decided I needed to read more of the comments section. As I continued to page through it, I realized that the comments they were receiving were very different than those on the other charitites’ pages. On most pages, people are talking about the charities’ work and their personal connection to it. On the Sonia & Max Silverstein Hebrew Academy page, many were just the single word “vote,” or some minor permutation of that.
This started me doing a few Google searches, and I found that there was suspected cheating in last year’s contest. (That story references gibberish names and comments, which I also found in my reading of comments, like Kgtgh Fkghssad, who commented “ftdre.”)
Things got progressively weirder and weirder, the more I read. I noticed a bunch of “stop bullying” comments on the Silverstein Academy page, but that page doesn’t say anything about bullying – their project, as I mentioned, is about building a gym.
Then I just happened to look at the Conejo Jewish Day School page (they’re in thirteenth place), and its “Big Idea” is about bullying…and a bunch of the same people have left the same terse comments both places.
That made me think that the single word “vote” comments must have been what someone was telling these people to do…to leave a comment on the wall so they get their gold points or whatever they’ve been promised.
I started clicking into some of the voters’ profiles, to see if they had a plausible connection to the academy they were voting for. I am doubtful that this person, who appears to live in Cairo, is legitimately voting for Conejo Jewish Day School without outside motivation. The main thing that caught my eye as I scanned her groups is that she’s in four or five groups that reference the game Barn Buddies. They’re practically the only English-language groups she’s in. Could her interest in voting have something to do with getting something for her game, like the gold points above? (When I ran her info page through Google Translate, I discovered that it included a bunch of Islamic religious pages, and several Palestinian pages. Yeah, pretty sure she’s not actually supporting CJDS. Also, what an unusual-looking baby!)
And then we found more incriminating comments:
Penny Williams Yarbrough11:39
Voted and even got paid to do it!!
Jeanie BrownMay 20
i voted all 5 but no swagbucks
Sarah SwaggergirlMay 20
now… gimme meh creds
This morning, I noticed a couple comments to the Sonia & Max Silverstein Academy page with the URL VoteFive.com, so I paid it a visit. The website suggests you vote for five Jewish schools and references “anti-bullying.” So that explained to me where the seemingly nonsensical comments about bullying on the Silverstein Academy page were coming from. And all of those schools have many of the single word “vote” or variations in their comment sections.
At that point, I decided to see if I could get more information out of one of the people I’d noticed had voted for at least three of the schools. But how to approach it so she’d tell me the truth? This is what I decided on:
Hi there! Did you get free stuff for Bingo Blitz or something else for voting for that Hebrew academy? I hate to be left out of free stuff. Thanks!
Karen Elizabeth Turner
Free facebook credits for 21 questions
So there you have it. I haven’t been able to find exactly where the rubber meets the road in terms of getting these people their payoff for voting, but I conclude that they are being compensated in some way.
This makes me absolutely sick – sicker than I already am! So many people with ME/CFS, including the bedridden, like me, have been working so hard on this project this week, devoting large amounts of our precious and scant energy to trying to help WPI, which has linked our illness to the third known human retrovirus, XMRV. And we’ve been pushed from seventh down to ninth place by cheaters. Is donating a half-million dollars to one school so they can build a gym a better use of that money than searching for answers pertaining to a retrovirus carried by up to 7% of the population, a retrovirus that is undoubtedly in the blood supply and that has already sickened a million people? I don’t think so.
I’m sure Chase has some sort of algorithm running that shows them the pattern of when votes were cast. There’s surely something suspicious about these academies running up the rankings at the end like this.
Lastly, I looked up the rules, and the pertinent section reads, “Chase is not responsible for, nor is it required to count, in its sole and absolute discretion, late, lost, misdirected, unlawful or illicit votes…” But is this illicit? I don’t know. The rules say nothing about compensation for votes. Did I report all of those comments? Yes, I did. Will Chase take any notice at all of this cheating? I’m sorry to say that I don’t have high hopes that it will.
So at this point I wonder if the Sonia & Max Silverstein Academy, the Southern Connecticut Hebrew Academy/New Haven Hebrew Day School, Cheder Chabad Monsey, Conejo Jewish Day School, Lubavitch Cheder/Oholei Yosef Yitzchack Lubavitch, and The Lubavitch Academy/Hillel Academy may be cheating in the Chase Community Giving contest.
Edited to add: Chase emailed me back and said they are investigating, and that they take this sort of thing “very seriously.”