Hayes-Tavares Caught in Apparent Fake Commenter Scheme
(APN) ATLANTA — Candidate for Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education District 6, Shawnna Hayes-Tavares, appears to have employed a tactic of impersonating at least three ficticious persons to post comments on the Atlanta Progressive News website, attacking the publication for a recent article.
Two days ago, Atlanta Progressive News revealed that Hayes-Tavares has an arrest record in DeKalb County; and a history of financial mismanagement of parents’ school funds, according to meeting minutes of the JC Young Middle School Local School Council.
APN had emailed Hayes-Tavares a list of questions on August 20, 2013, but she failed to respond. APN also sent a text message on August 21, reiterating that the questions had been sent, but she failed to respond.
Following the article’s publication, on yesterday, a number of comments began to appear in the article’s comment section, defending Hayes-Tavares, and attacking or threatening APN.
The comments came from a purported “T. Mahdi,” a “Terry,” and a “YoungMSTeacher.”
APN first observed what appeared to be an orchestrated campaign effort, and found that the comments were all coming from the same IP address, 220.127.116.11.
Upon further research, APN identified the IP address as Hayes-Tavares’s own. The candidate had previously commented on an APN article containing an interview with her on July 08, 2013, from the same IP, in which she wrote in first person.
APN has since deleted some of the apparently fraudulent comments, has blocked the IP address from making further comments, and posted a comment notifying the candidate that she had been caught. Some of the comments remain on the website as evidence of the apparent deception by Hayes-Tavares.
In a text message, Hayes-Tavares now claims that there were three campaign volunteers at her house posting the comments unbeknownst to her, and that she was not home. However, the claim does not seem credible.
APN asked Hayes-Tavares to provide the names and phone numbers of the alleged campaign volunteers, so their authenticity as real people could be verified. Hayes-Tavares, while responding with lawsuit threats, did not provide the information.
APN also sent emails to the three emails associated with the apparent fictitious commenters. One of the emails, the email for “T. Mahdi,” immediately bounced back, with a message stating that no such Yahoo account exists. The other two emails have seen no response.
If they really are real people, and they really were so enthusiastic about going on the offense for their candidate, it is not immediately clear why they would not respond to establish their authenticity as real people at this point.
Also, if Hayes-Tavares had a substantive response to the facts raised in APN’s article regarding her arrest and financial mismanagement issues, it is not immediately clear why she would use tactics of attack and fictitious commenters, instead of simply responding with correction requests.
The comments themselves raise further questions, indicating at least some admitted level of deception by the Hayes-Tavares campaign, even if any of the purported commenters are real people.
For example, commenter Terry, wrote, “I also live in District 6 and I just got off Mrs. Hayes-Tavares website and I see she has a long time history with PTA leadership. I also took the liberty to call her from a number listed on the site and learned some wonderful things.”
If, as Hayes-Tavares claims, Terry is a real person and a volunteer for her campaign, the comment itself is misleading, because a campaign volunteer working at the candidate’s house would not need to go to a campaign website to get the candidate’s phone number, and presumably, would not need to “take the liberty” to call the candidate to learn about their experience and background.
Therefore, even if they are three campaign volunteers, they are using deceptive tactics in an apparent attempt to defraud APN readers, meaning that either the candidate or the campaign is being deceptive.
Hayes-Tavares also claimed in a text message that she was “unaware” of the comments being allegedly posted from her house. However, in two comments, the purported commenters claim to call her two times, making it impossible that she was unaware, even if the commenters are real people.
Hayes-Tavares stated in a text message that she received a phonecall from one of her alleged volunteers, further casting doubt on the validity of their statements, even if they are real people.
“This will be the last correspondence you receive other than a response and legal documents. Please do not contact me ever again!” Hayes-Tavares wrote in a text message yesterday.
However, as of publication of this article Hayes-Tavares has neither provided a response nor legal documents.
As previously reported by APN, this publication has been threatened numerous times with litigation, usually by elected officials or candidates, but such litigation has never been filed. APN has no reason to believe this situation to be different, but is not worried in any event, seeing as how truth is a defense to charges of libel.
Since publication of the last article on the candidate, APN has made an open records request to the DeKalb County Police Department for a copy of the police report associated with Hayes-Tavares’s arrest, in which, among other things, she was cited for giving false information to the police. APN has not received a copy of the report yet to date, and the County has until Tuesday, August 27, to respond.