Call for crowd action: Is there cheating with the Guttenberg page on Facebook?

Intro (by me – Karsten): The german defence minister von Guttenberg has been in some recent controversies and just recently stepped down from his post because of these. The german mediablogger Sascha Lobo thinks there might be even more fishy things going on… an interesting example of crowdsourcing, facebook and fame (original in german can be found here) 

Does someone (doesn’t have to be the page admins) cheat with the fan numbers on the Facebook page “Wir wollen Guttenberg zurück” (“We want Guttenberg back”)? Let us try to figure it out together – I will explain how in this article.

It started fairly plausible: Guttenberg (background info here) filled the halls and the sides of the boulevards – why should he not be able to inspire even the Facebook masses? Especially since Facebook is growing like crazy in Germany, there are now more than 16 million active members in this country. Until the facebook fanpage reached about 200,000 fans of the group “Wir wollen Guttenberg zurück” assessment was: quite an achievement with so many fans in such a short time, but not entirely impossible.

When the page hit 300,000 fans, I began to doubt. Especially since the fans included profiles like these: Anna-Lena Breitenberger* has no interests other than Guttenberg (on different pages) – and apparently no other Friends, no bio, no nothing. I would have thought it realistic that someone persuades friends to join facebook and view support for the Guttenberg case, but I find it unlikely that this person does not even add those who persuaded them to join facebook as friends. Unlikely – however not impossible.

Finding Facebook-fakes with the crowd
After the fanpage reached 500,000 fans, and after discovering the following article which documented a very strange and constant increase in the number of fans, I decided to check if there somehow could be found evidence of fraud och fake accounts being used to push the fanpage up. The plan was to use the crowd, with two different methods to find clues.

Method #1
The first method is very simple: I would like you to post the number of supporters of the fanpage at a particular time. If possible with a screenshot in order to remain comprehensible. For example, a screenshot of 1 March, 22.08 clock, where there are 229 069 fans. If enough data is collected, one can calculate a curve whose regularity provides information about a possible “enhanced” support for the page. Particularly data / screenshots from the overnight low would be interesting.

Method #2
The second method is not quite simple, it is an arithmetic approximation to the probability that the fan page has fake fans. The method is based on being able to see how many of your friends are fans of the page. At the time of the screenshots (11.05 clock, today on Friday), the page has 545 982 fans. My profile has 4917 friends, of which 145 are fans of the Guttenberg page.

It follows from this that 0.02655% of Guttenberg fans are my Friends. At first this isn’t suspicious – even though after a short review and consultation with my friends i found that a third of them are there for obviously ironic interest in the fanpage – but that is to be accepted, a fan is a fan. If I however look at the page for Angela Merkel, which has 74 353 fans, of which 147 are my Friends, that is 0.1977% overlap for Merkel. Strange – more then one seventh the amount of total fans, but almost the same number of overlaps? Looking at the fanpage of the BILD newspaper, at the time of the screenshot (today, 11.05 Clock) there are 111 398 fans – and of whom 214 are my Friends. Interestingly, the overlap is at a similar value to that of the Angela Merkel fanpage, 0.1921%. The Page of Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg itself has 219 of my friends as fans of a total of 197 414 fans. There the overlap value 0.1109% – slightly less than for BILD and Merkel, but still more than four times as high as in the “Guttenberg back” page – which indicates a significent difference.

Of course I cannot assume, with my open political standings, that my fans are a good representation of the center of the conservative movement. But a certain consistency within different kind of conservative movements would be likely to be assumed, which is this case seems not to be. However, given the high amount of attention the fanpage has caused, and especially mentions on Television, it might still be a true phenomenon.

And here the crowd plays the crucial part. The more of you that posts how many friends they have, and how many friends they have that are fans of the Guttenburg page, the better we can get a complete picture, regardless of political views. It is however important to remember, that especially the second method, has assumptions that might be wrong.

You can all but help to figure out how high the likelihood is that the Guttenberg-Page works with fake fan profiles. If enough people can come together we can work out more precisely how large the deviation is, and consequently the probability that they are fake fans. This might not be enough to prove anything, but enough to make a good assumption. And that might be enough as we have learned in the Guttenberg story so far.

So please post in the comments the following:
• The number of your friends
• The number of overlaps with the “Guttenberg-back” Page
• The number of overlaps with the Merkel-Page
• The number of overlaps with the BILD-Page
• The number of overlaps with the official Guttenberg Page
and a link to your profile sake of traceability.

For me it would look like:
4917 – 145 – 147 – 214 – 219

I will then analyze the data, if enough data is present and experts such as Philip and Jens from Facebook marketing help. A request to Facebook itself is also sent out. Thank you in advance for your participation and dissemination.

* Update (Friday 16:36)
Meanwhile, Facebook confirmed to me that the above-linked profile of Anna-Lena Breitenberger is “totally authentic”. Sorry, Anna-Lena.

Outro: The article has gotten almost 1000 comments since being posted, and there is now a followup (comming soon in english) – which points to some very interesting facts and lessons to be learned.

This article has been brought to attention to mindpark and translated with thanks to, where I am one of the owners.



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