An oil and gas industry consultant reportedly created a fake persona of ‘an imaginary, middle-aged Texas woman with a dog’ to monitor environmental activists online
- A consulting firm hired by the oil and gas industry created a fake persona of "an imaginary, middle-aged Texas woman with a dog" to monitor environmental activists online, according to a report from The New York Times.
- The fictitious Facebook profile of "Susan McDonald" was created to monitor potential protests of a drilling operation intended near a Texas state park.
- The discovery of the profile was part of a larger investigation into FTI Consulting, which The Times said created multiple websites and organizations run by its own staff that appeared to be grass-roots endeavors in favor of fossil fuels. In reality, the efforts were funded by big oil and gas companies.
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A consulting firm hired by the oil and gas industry created a fake persona of "an imaginary, middle-aged Texas woman with a dog" to monitor environmental activists online, according to a report from The New York Times.
The global firm, FTI Consulting, was hired by oil and gas companies to help promote fossil fuels, Times climate reporter Hiroko Tabuchi said.
A group within the firm was reportedly hired by Apache Energy, a company that was interested in drilling near a Texas state park. Two sources told Tabuchi that the company was worried people would show up to protest like in the case of the Dakota Access Pipeline protests in 2016, when thousands of people descended upon North Dakota to resist the pipeline.
As a result, an online persona was created to keep an eye on organizers, former FTI employees told Tabuchi. That Facebook profile was "of a Texas woman named Susan McDonald who likes ice cream, the movie "Annie" and her local farmers' market," The Times reported.
A spokesman from FTI, Matthew Bashalany, told The Times, "A Facebook profile was created by a former employee to monitor social media anonymously. This was wrong, and it is against our policy."
The discovery of the false profile came out of a larger investigation into the firm, which Tabuchi said created multiple websites and organizations run by its own staff that appeared to be grass-roots endeavors in favor of fossil fuels. In reality, the efforts were funded by big oil and gas companies.
In one instance, a pro-fracking website called "Texans for Natural Gas" encouraged people to "thank a roughneck," The Times reported. In another, the "Main Street Investors Coalition" promoted claims that climate activism doesn't help small-time investors in the stock market.
Tabuchi reported that oil companies hired FTI to push back against the growing criticism surrounding fossil fuels as a result of climate change and to help shift public perception towards a positive view of oil.
The price of oil dropped to historic lows in the spring after the industry was hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, President-elect Joe Biden is expected to up the country's efforts in the fight against climate change, though it's not yet clear what impact his presidency will have on the energy industry.
Read the full New York Times report here »
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