A popular Facebook page for Robert Gates, the secretary of defense, appears to have been hacked, and then went missing altogether from the website on Friday.
One problem: Sec. Gates doesn't have a Facebook page, according to Col. Dave Lapan, director of press ops at the Pentagon's Office of the Secretary of Defense.
There are many celebrity pages and fan pages on Facebook, including military celebrities. Usually the one with the most followers is the legitimate one, not a faker.
This Gates page had more than 5,200 "fans" who signed up to follow it...including several Pentagon and military reporters (you know who you are). It usually posted news stories about the secretary and not much else.
But really? Gates doesn't update his Facebook status until he falls asleep every night?!
"No he doesn't," said Roxie Merritt, the Pentagon's director of new media policy. "You can find all our 'official' Facebook pages on the social media registry on defense.gov. When we first set upthe DoD Facebook page, we noticed that there were more than 500 pages for Secretary Gates, none of which actually belonged to him."
Hat tip to Al Pessin, of Voice of America, who noted some oddly non-OSD like language being used to comment on some recent wall postings on the page. Accompanying an posted AFP story about Gates' recent dismay over Turkey's opposition to Iran sanctions, the "ADMIN" wrote that Prime Minsiter Recep Tayyip Erdogan's "policies have been generally hostile to the US." Say what?
On Friday afternoon came this posting: "ADMIN - Note to fans: I have temporarilty shut off the photo section and wall postings due to an obscure group of trolls that are feuding with each other and are generally behaving bizarrely. Hopefully they will move on to a Brittney Spears page or something similar."
Shortly after that message went up, the entire page went missing from Facebook.
There are "real" Facebook pages for top commanders like Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Adm. James Stavridis, the surpreme allied commander of NATO; and even Gen. Ray Odierno, the (still) Iraq war commander.
They have varying degrees of authenticity, from Stavridis constantly updating his travels and meetings and tennis matches to Odierno's postings of huggy-feely ribbon-cuttings and other good-news public relations events from the "sandbox." (He recently posted that he used the page "to bring you good news stories from Iraq". He added: "Please limit your comments to supporting our troops who are here doing important work for the Iraqi people.")
Moral of the story: always check your sources.