Nostalgic Facebook account suddenly surges in popularity

Kate Cagle
Daily Press Staff Writer

A popular Facebook group for Santa Monicans to share old pictures, reminisce and sometimes debate hot topics went from public to private this week, after the group’s administrators were flooded with thousands of requests to join.

“It started in the last two or three days,” said Mimi Robson, who is the administrator for the group ‘You know you’re from Santa Monica if…’
“At first, I didn’t think much about it but then I realized it had been over a thousand.

I deleted 1,884 requests a few hours (ago) and that’s when I noticed I was getting new requests by the minute.”

Robson says the requests are coming from accounts based all over the world and suspects they may be spammers looking to get exposure to the group’s 13,400 members.

She initially responded to the influx by setting up a mandatory questionnaire to join. When it failed to reduce the number of requests, she changed the group from public to “closed.”

Because of the amount of time Robson has spent deleting requests, she may change the group’s status once again – to “secret” so other users can’t find it.

In six years of managing the account, Robson (who is running as the Libertarian Candidate for the California State Assembly next year) has never seen anything like it.

She usually gets about ten requests a day from people who appear to be from Southern California.

The activity was sudden and strange. Robson wondered if it was connected to the region’s recent appearance in International news due to the surrounding wildfires.

“I don’t know that there’s a theme and I have to admit I didn’t really look at the over 1,800 I deleted today,” Robson said, “but there are a lot of people from other states and countries.”

Last month Facebook’s general counsel promised Congress the company would do more to prevent fake accounts and news stories on the social media site.

Facebook has admitted foreign actors including Russia used fake accounts to purchase inflammatory ads that reached millions of Americans during the 2016 election.

“Our commitment to addressing this problem is unwavering,” said Colin Stretch, the site’s top lawyer.

Stretch promised Facebook would make significant investments to crack down on bad actors amid concerns of “coordinated inauthentic activity.”

The promise came months after Facebook purged tens of thousands of fake accounts connected to a global spam operation. The operation created accounts in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and other countries.

The accounts would “like” various pages and post comments before sending friend requests to gain access to real people, according to Shabnam Shaik, a technical program manager at Facebook.

In the social media giant’s “help center,” users are encouraged to report any spam attempts to Facebook. Robson filed a complaint but more than 24 hours later had not received a response.

Kate Cagle

Senior reporter for the Santa Monica Daily Press