Shortly after Tuesday night’s mayoral debate, the Press & Sun-Bulletin posted a summary of the event with the headline “Face Off in Mayor Race: Housing, crime hot topics.” Later that night, the article was shared on Mayor Rich David’s official Facebook page with an altered headline: “Tarik Abdelazim backpedals on record in first mayoral debate.”
When Pipe Dream counted on Wednesday afternoon, 24 of 43 headlines of reposted local media coverage since Jan.1 had been changed on David’s Facebook page. Beginning Wednesday night, however, the Facebook page’s headlines began to return to their original wording.
The alterations ranged from a few words to rewrites. In April, Spectrum News posted an article with the headline, “Is your property up to standards? Binghamton code enforcement sweep begins.” The post later appeared on the mayor’s Facebook page with the headline: “Mayor David targets blighted properties with code enforcement sweeps.”
In an email to Pipe Dream Wednesday regarding last night’s post, Deputy Mayor Jared Kraham said he is responsible for David’s campaign Facebook page.
“In an effort to share an objective report by the Press & Sun-Bulletin of last night’s debate, a Facebook ad was created with a link and some short text,” Kraham wrote. “Being a paid post, the format of that link was optimized for multiple social media platforms, including Instagram. The post has been removed as to not become a distraction.”
Sean Massey, associate professor of women, gender and sexuality studies at Binghamton University, shared side-by-side screenshots of the differing headlines on Facebook.
“Interesting that Rich felt the need to edit this article to include a fake headline before posting it,” Massey wrote. “From what I read in the article, Tarik offered smart responses to every claim Rich made.”
Sources: Rich David Campaign Facebook page as of Wednesday afternoon, original Pressconnects article
Two weeks later, the Press & Sun-Bulletin ran the headline “POLICE AWARDS: Drug busts and CPR”; however, the headline “ABOVE AND BEYOND: Police awards showcase community’s finest” was used on David’s page. In late May, the Press & Sun-Bulletin sat down with David for a Q&A session, later posting the headline “Conversation with: Mayor Rich David.” On David’s Facebook page, the headline “Conversation: Mayor Rich David’s bipartisan record” was used.
None of the altered posts appeared as sponsored content and, according to a Facebook post from July 2017, as of Sept. 12, users are no longer able to edit how a link appears on Facebook from websites the user doesn’t own.
Update, Thursday, 9/28 at 7 p.m. Mayor David released the following statement: “As Mayor and as a candidate, I’m ultimately responsible for everything that happens under my name. We could and should have done better communicating our message consistent with Facebook’s evolving best practices, and clearer in presenting links to news stories.”