Social Media Sob Story Emerges As Con Job
A blogger’s sob story about living in abject poverty that went viral on Facebook this week has turned out to be fake and highlights how easy it is for opportunists to abuse the generosity of social media users.
Linda Tirado’s essay Why I Make Terrible Decisions, or Poverty Thoughts was first published on her blog then republished in The Huffington Post. From there, it spread rapidly across Facebook, raising more than $60,000 in donations so far to Tirado’s GoFundMe account.
However, Mediaite reports that Tirado is not a poor mother with bad teeth fighting off cockroaches in seedy motel rooms but is actually:
…a private-school-educated Democratic activist who wildly exaggerated her circumstances. She owns a home as the result of her parent’s generosity. She has worked in politics since 2004 and has called herself a private political consultant since 2010.
And in the original investigative expose by Angelica Leicht of Houston Press, we learn that Tirado is actually:
…married to a Marine, has met President [Barack] Obama while interning for a politician (who obviously wasn’t disgusted by those rotten teeth), and has plenty of time to visit Las Vegas on vacation. And blog about her privileged life on WordPress. She speaks both German and Dutch, and has a well-rounded political blog that ended in 2011. It’s also a blog where she quite plainly references being paid to win races.
We’re reminded of an ‘enterprising’ entry in the classified ads section of a US newspaper some 40 years ago that said no more than ‘Send $1 to’ followed by a PO box address. It was said the person who placed the ad was sent several thousand dollars by unthinking respondents.
However, the Tirado tale goes much further and it’s made journalist Leicht’s blood boil:
There are parents out there who are lying awake at night, worried about how to pay the light bill or feed their children. They aren’t worried about book deals and political rallies. Those are worries we’re allowed when above the poverty line. And those parents that are worried about how to feed their kids could desperately use the money Linda’s siphoning from well-meaning folks to fund her vacations and writing career.
It’s an old story wrapped in new technology and new media.
So the next time a sob story lobs on your Facebook feed, it might be as well to do better than the pros at Huffington Post and do a little digging. After all, it’s a jungle out there.