LA 2024 Olympic Committee Caught In Possible Scam

Of all the scams in the world, buying Facebook likes is pretty weak

AFP/Getty Images
Apr 04, 2017 at 5:15 PM ET

According to the Associated Press, LA 2024, the organizing body working to bring the 2024 Olympics to Los Angeles, may be buying Facebook followers in order to create the artificial impression that actual people are rallying behind their bid.

Over the last six weeks, LA2024’s Facebook page has suddenly become very, very popular, going from a mere 209,000 total likes, the vast majority of which were associated with U.S Facebook accounts, to over a million likes as of today. Funny thing, the people smashing that like button of late are located in countries that probably don’t care which city the IOC ultimately selects. Working with Socialbakers, a Czech-based company that studies social media analytics, the Associated Press pinpointed where the uptick in pro-Los Angeles love was coming from.

Los Angeles saw an explosion in support from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, Indonesia, Egypt, India, Afghanistan and other low-income countries, according to Socialbakers’ research. In Bangladesh alone, the number of supporters of the U.S. Olympic bid rose from a few dozen to 113,335 in a month-and-a-half. In Pakistan, the number of supporters leapt from 55 to 99,336 over the same period.

Paris 2024, which is competing with Los Angeles to see which city will be screwed over by the IOC, saw a similar leap of late, tripling the total number of likes on its Facebook page, yet 80 percent of their newfound online fans were located in France. (The remaining 20 percent were largely from the former French colonies Algeria and Tunisia.)

A spokesman for LA2024 told the Associated Press that the sudden leap in popularity was due to a Facebook advertising campaign targeting non-U.S. citizens that began on February 3. He declined to say how much LA2024 had spent for the ads or why LA2024 felt compelled to seek out new, non-U.S. citizens to begin with.

Michael Branova, a Socialbakers analyst, called the spike “suspicious,” particularly since there’s no organic reason for vast numbers of Pakistanis and Bangladeshis to suddenly express their online admiration for LA 2024. Another expert is pretty sure that LA2024 is paying for its likes.

“It’s consistent with what you’d expect to see from paid endorsements,” said Daniel Mochon, who teaches social media marketing at Tulane University’s A. B. Freeman School of Business. “They tend to come from developing countries … You’re going to see sudden spikes that are not necessarily tied to anything external.”

As the Associated Press notes, it’s a swell time for LA 2024 to launch an astroturfed campaign, given that representatives from LA 2024 and Paris 2024 met with IOC reps in Denmark on Tuesday to hype the merits of their respective bids.

On Monday, LA 2024 sent out this cheery announcement.

LA 2024 Chairman Casey Wasserman: “On behalf of LA 2024, I would like to thank the more than one million fans, 79% of whom are under the age of 34, who have liked us on Facebook. Their incredible appetite for LA 2024’s stories and their desire to Follow the Sun to LA in 2024 reinforce our belief that LA 2024 is the ideal partner for the Olympic and Paralympic Movements at this critical time.”

Congratulations, LA 2024. You hired robots to cheer for you. Soak it all in.