In the early morning hours of January 11, a group of leftist con men launched a sneak attack on an undetermined number of conservative Facebook pages. The perpetrators, calling themselves the “Goatz Alliance,” gained access to the conservative pages, deleted the page administrators, and began posting anti-conservative propaganda and memes depicting goats.
Jason Doolin, owner of the conservative Citizens’ Post page on Facebook, said that Patrick Blair, allegedly a representative of The Freedom Alliance contacted him several months ago about helping him to expand his page. Blair gained his trust over a period of months. There is a real Freedom Alliance as well, a Virginia based charity organized as 501(c)(3) organization that educates young Americans in civic responsibility and provides scholarships to the children of American soldiers.
Blair apparently operated several fake conservative Facebook pages and websites as a cover. In some cases, he seems to have even recruited conservative activists to administer and work on these pages, only to delete their work and revert the pages to goats later. Blair used the fake conservative pages to make conservative friends and seem more credible to his targets.
Doolin said that after gaining his trust Blair proposed an “admin exchange” in which the various pages in his Freedom Alliance would grant each other administrator status and exchange ideas. The plan was also promoted as a way to increase awareness of smaller pages like Doolin’s Citizens’ Post.
Blair allegedly put his plan in to action on January 10. He asked Doolin to grant administrator status to himself and a friend, Lyman Briggs. Late that night, Blair and his comrade deleted Doolin and his other page administrators and vandalized the page with anti-conservative and anti-Republican hate.
Doolin attempted to contact Facebook to report the abuse and theft of his page, but it is almost impossible to get in touch with Facebook’s customer service and security personnel. Although Facebook says on its legal page that the company “respects the intellectual property rights of others and is committed to helping third parties protect their rights,” the company makes it very difficult to communicate with them about a problem.
Emily Garman on the blog, The Social Animal, posted a video that describes the process to recover control of a hijacked Facebook organizational page. The process is essentially to report the abuse via dropdown menus on the page and hope that a Facebook representative deigns to contact you. A search of the internet did turn up a Facebook page with a procedure for reclaiming business pages. Depending on how the page was set up, this procedure may allow users to regain control of hijacked sites.
Patrick Blair was traced to a Facebook page in Buxton, Maine. On his timeline, he admitted to duping conservatives and “goating” their pages. Blair appears to also be involved with pages called “Busta Troll” and “Busta’s Army.” These pages are dedicated to “trolling,” visiting opposing sites and trying to provoke arguments. A post on Busta’s Army from January 10 claims responsibility for hijacking Doolin’s Citizens’ Post.
Various posts on the three pages refer to “paid liberal trolls.” It is unknown whether these internet denizens are actually paid and, if so, by whom. On his Facebook page, Blair claims to be paid by George Soros, but this is doubtful.
Examiner’s investigation turned up an several earlier attacks by the Goatz Alliance. Miss Lilly (name changed to protect her identity) was an administrator on a conservative page called “America, the Next Generation.” One of the other administrators on the page posted a picture of President Obama in a noose, a picture that Miss Lilly agrees was “in bad taste.” The page’s owner removed the picture, but not before it was noticed by leftist bloggers.
Orlando Liberal Examiner Robert Sobel was apparently the first to notice the picture on December 31, 2013. The next day, Addicting Info, a far left-wing blog picked up the story and credited Steve Marmel, “a TV writer and producer with a left-wing Facebook page,” for pointing it out.
As the story hit the liberal blogs, Miss Lilly said their page was inundated with liberal trolls. “These were the nastiest, vilest [people],” she says. “I have never encountered such utter hatred and contempt. This goes way beyond racism. They called us racists, but what they said and did to us was beyond the scope and definition of racism. They are truly sick people.”
She continued, “We must have banned hundreds and hundreds of them. Facebook did nothing to help.”
Eventually, the site’s owners were contacted by James M. Ritchie, a.k.a. “Ranger,” who claimed to be a “troll killer.” Ritchie offered to help the site’s owners fight off the liberal attacks if they granted him administrator status on the page.
About the same time, the goats first appeared on the page, posted by a user calling himself “Vlad the Emailer.” Vlad claimed that goats were “an international peace sign” and offered his help as well. Another user who offered help, “Irwin Jr.,” may also be one of the goats.
There are several levels of administrators on Facebook pages. Content creators can post content, moderators can delete comments and messages, and managers have the ability to delete other administrators. Ritchie quickly persuaded the site’s owner to grant him manager access. Almost immediately, the page was hijacked and the legitimate administrators were deleted.
At this point, Patrick Blair enters the story. Miss Lilly says that he contacted the owners and told them that he had seen what happened to their page and that he wanted to help as well. He said that he had several pages that were “abandoned” by other administrators and offered to give one to the owners of America, The Next Generation. Where Blair got these pages is uncertain, but they may have been hijacked as well. Miss Lilly worked on one of these pages until Blair changed it back to goat pictures again over the weekend. “All they got from me the second time,” she says, “was the pleasure of calling me a dummy.”
Miss Lilly also said, “We took the goats for what they are, symbols of Satanism.”
While there is no evidence that Blair and his band are Satanists, they have made anti-Christian and anti-religious postings on their pages. It is likely that they have the same anti-religious beliefs that many members of the modern left seem to share.
At this point, Examiner has identified at least seven pages that have been hijacked by the goats. Owners of conservative Facebook pages should be aware that Patrick Blair and Busta’s Army may try to target them as well. While it might be difficult to stop a horde of liberal trolls like the one that assaulted Miss Lilly’s page, owners can prevent their pages from being hijacked by not elevating anyone to administrator status that they do not know personally. In most cases, the page owner should keep manager status for himself or closely trusted associates.
Abuse or harassment should be reported to Facebook. This can be done by clicking the gear symbol at the top of the offending page or user’s timeline and selecting “report page.” Individual posts can be reported as well. Click the “v” symbol in the upper right corner of the post. This will open a menu with an option to “report post.” When Facebook responds, users can use the feedback option to type a message to Facebook's customer service and security team. Any threats should definitely be reported to Facebook as well as to the police.