Killer of Sacred Cows
Thursday, December 18, 2003
  AFA - Correction and Retraction
I request that you propagate this post as widely as the last one was propagated.

Sometimes, being an activist means operating on available information. And I'm as prone as the next guy to attribute really negative and sinister motives to people who don't like me. So when the AFA claimed that their poll was being intentionally skewed by a person using an automated script, I figured, "Yeah, that's what they'd say, because they don't want to believe that that many people are for gay marriage."

I'm regretting that I posted about this in the heat of the moment, now. For one thing, my personal journal is now open to the world in ways I never expected, and that does kind of shake me up. But even more, I am regretting posting in the heat of the moment because it has come to my attention that at least 2,700 of those votes which the AFA removed were, in fact, from a script -- written by someone who told me that "I dont [sic] really keep current with politics, I just saw how biased the poll was, and decided to try to help even things out."

This is why it's so very important to keep current with politics, folks. A stunt like this one destroys credibility.

I admit, too, that I asked friends on my LJ to use for email addresses and to use false names, if they didn't feel comfortable giving the AFA their personal information, since any group will often harvest emails for later spam purposes. But I see a sizeable distinction between using a address (which is, in fact, a valid email address) or a pseudonym, or both, and using an automated script to skew a poll with hundreds of truly fraudulent, not-supported-by-a-real-person votes.

The young man who did the votebombing, Steve, confessed here. The text of his confession is below.

I am writing this to claim responsibility for writing a program that has caused a lot of controversy and anger between voters of "American Family Association"'s Online Marriage Poll.

On Dec. 12 of 2003, I wrote a small program that generated about 2700 false votes for the "pro-homosexual marriage" option of their web poll. I truly did not understand the repercussions that my program would have, and I am very deeply sorry for the trouble I have caused to AFA, to the GLBT community, and their respective supporters. I simply felt that a biased online poll on a website of Christian Fundamentalists that was to be sent to Congress as a representation of all America should at least have a voice from those who did not agree with them. Fraudulently posting votes was not the right way to do this, and once again I apologize.

At the time I wrote the program, there were about 82.4k votes against gay marriage or civil unions, 4k opting for legalization, and 2.1k for civil unions. It is my personal opinion that governments, and religious groups, should not interfere with consenting adults, no matter their personal opinion.

This is a screenshot of the program he wrote and used:

I want, at this time, to apologize to the AFA for doubting them, and to the online community for misrepresenting what I thought at the time to be actual bias on the part of the AFA.

If there is anyone else out there who wrote a script to votebomb the AFA's poll, it would be a lot better if you came forward and confessed. I'm glad that the AFA's poll shows about a fifty-fifty split between yeas and nays, but it would help if we knew -- if we all knew -- that the numbers were, in fact, a valid representation of the true feelings of the entire online community.

Moral of this story: When you find out that you've screwed up, the best thing to do is admit it. Anything less destroys credibility, and that's a commodity you can't buy. If you find that you've acted less than credibly, less than honestly, the best thing to do is come forward, be honest about it, and take your lumps. As I said to Steve when he confessed to me tonight, some of it will stick to you regardless, but avoiding the truth only means you get in deeper and deeper.

I know that the AFA deleted about 3,000 votes two times. I only have screenshots for one of them, and Steve insists that his script only produced about 2,700 fraudulent votes, so his script only accounts for half of the deletions that were made. If the AFA would show their raw data in good faith, that would be a step in the right direction.
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