Americans began heading anew this weekend to President Obama’s official Obamacare Facebook page to gather information on the new round of health care enrollment, share their experiences shopping for insurance on the federal exchange and voice their opinions on the president’s signature domestic achievement.
However, what some would view as a robust marketplace of ideas is actually controlled by just a few, an analysis of the Web page shows.
Sixty percent of the site’s 226,838 comments generated from September 2012 to early last month can be attributed to fewer than 100 unique profiles, according to an analysis completed by The Washington Times with assistance from an outside data analytics team. Many of those profiles belong to just one person who created multiple aliases or personas to widen her influence and multiply her voice.
Cindi Huynh, an Obamacare supporter in California, posted on average 59 times a day on the site in 60 days, making her the No. 1 poster in that period. She posted only during work hours — as is the trend of the top 25 posters on the site — and never on weekends.
Over the past two years, Ms. Huynh has been a prolific poster — ranking twice in the top 25 profiles contributing to the site — once under the name “Cindi Huynh” and again as “Cyndi Huynh Vellucci.”
Ms. Huynh has had at least four Facebook profiles, she confirmed.
Ms. Huynh told The Times that she has never been paid for her posts but has volunteered for the California Democratic Party and was approached to become an Obamacare patient advocate. She said she was too busy to contribute in that way and felt she could better spread the message online. She has a full-time job but has declined to name her employer.
Copious posters on the Obamacare site, like Ms. Huynh, were not all so easily identifiable. Once The Times made known it was conducting an investigation into the audience on the site, at least three pro-Obamacare commentators disappeared or deactivated their accounts.
• Wanda Milner has posted 4,695 times in the entire timeline evaluated, putting her in the top 25 commentators. Ms. Milner, who is from Canada, told The Times she was passionate about the issue and decided to get active about it. She denied having any aliases or being paid for her actions, but said fake pages were created to mock her. She has “liked” many of Ms. Huynh’s comments as well as those of other pro-Obamacare posters.
• Paul J. Nunley is an anti-Obamacare poster who made 2,316 posts in 60 days, ranking only behind Ms. Huynh. A retired veteran from New Mexico, Mr. Nunley said he dedicates his full time to the site to try to “rid it of misinformation.” In the process of doing so, he has made friends with Ms. Huynh and other top posters, and has engaged in online fighting, leading to multiple timeouts of his profile.
• Eileen A. Wolf, from North Dakota, posted 5,870 times in the entire period evaluated and 325 times in 60 days. She also used the account of her husband, James Wolf, to post prolifically under his name, Mr. Wolf said.
The official Obamacare page is controlled by Organizing for Action, the president’s former political action committee and now a nonprofit group. It has more than 771,000 Facebook “likes” and is updated every day with a new link promoting the policy.
The more likes, links, content and comments generated off the site move it higher in the list of Google searches, meaning the very few who are posting on the site obsessively are able to drive it as a top return in another person’s Google search — no matter the ideological tilt of the comments.
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Contributed by Kelly Riddell of The Washington Times.