Throughout 2010, an impostor has been using Facebook to gain the confidence of activists, journalists, authors, members of Congress, and prominent members of public interest groups.
Operating under the fictitious names "Gregory Davis", "Preston G. Davis", and "Gregoire525", this individual has friended more than 300 people, gaining access to the personal information and status updates they have posted. Many of those individuals were maligned on websites run by the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF), an industry-funded astroturf group that specializes in vicious smear campaigns against public interest groups, vegans, environmentalists, animal welfare, and the charities associated with them.
HWI has obtained evidence that suggests CCF's Director of Research, David Martosko, is using these false identities to spy on activists and public interest groups.
Given Martosko's obsession with activists, erratic behavior, substance abuse, rumors of stalking, and the presence of his name on a 2007 concealed weapon report, his access to this sensitive information is extremely troubling.
Timeline of Events
Note: Many of the screenshots below were taken after "Gregory" had changed his Facebook identity to "Preston". Facebook retains the content of the post, but displays the current name on the account. Therefore, you may see instances where people are talking to "Greg", but the replies appear under "Preston's" name. They are the same account, and the same person.
Update Feb. 08, 2011: Almost immediately after this article was published, Gregory/Preston changed his name again. The account in question is here, and if it appears on your friends list, it should be blocked, and reported as a fake account.
|Jan. 2001||The Yahoo! account gregoire525 is created. 5/25 is David Martosko's birthdate. The corresponding email account is later used to register a Facebook account under the fictitious names "Gregory Davis" and "Preston G. Davis".|
|Nov. 2001||CCF launches a website, ActivistCash.com, which publishes negative profiles of activists and activist groups. Foremost among its targets are SHAC, PETA, PCRM, and the HSUS.|
|Aug. 2002||Gregoire525 posts in the Pro-Animal-Rights forum on Yahoo. The subject line of the post reads "SHAC group moving in from England?", and contains an article from the Financial Times titled "US is the export target for animal rights militants".|
|Nov. 2004||Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) files an IRS complaint challenging CCF's tax-exempt status for, among other violations, engaging in prohibited electioneering against presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich.
Gregory/Preston later joins both CREW's and Kucinich's Facebook pages.
|May 2005||CCF's Director of Research, David Martosko, gives Senate testimony for a hearing on the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act.
He states: "The threat from domestic terrorism motivated by environmental and animal-rights ideologies is well documented, unambiguous, and growing... HSUS, PETA, and PETA’s quasi-medical affiliate, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), are troubling examples of animal-rights charities which have connections to their movement’s militant underbelly."
Throughout his testimony, Martosko refers to SHAC, the subject of the 2005 post made by gregoire525.
|Sep. 2006||The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act is passed by the U.S. Senate. A dissenting statement was issued by Representative Dennis Kucinich.|
|Feb. 15, 2007||A concealed weapon petition is heard in Fairfax County Civil Court. The docket is "#CL-2007-0000410, In Re: David Matthew Martosko". The petition is granted.|
|Mar. 12, 2007||David Martosko is allegedly seen stalking and photographing activists at a meeting of the National Conference on Organized Resistance.|
|Sep. 29, 2008||David Martosko is arrested for DUI and related offenses.|
|Dec. 5, 2008||David Martosko receives a suspended sentence of one year, suspension of his drivers' license for one year, a fine, and mandatory substance abuse counseling.|
|Dec. 18, 2009||A Facebook account under the false name "Gregory Davis" is created, with the email address firstname.lastname@example.org. The profile is a two-dimensional caricature of a vegan activist, with a few superficially liberal interests and a political affiliation listed as "dope-smoking commie". Gregory explains his sudden appearance with a tale of his supposed adventures building dog fostering networks in India and Bangladesh.
He joins a number of activist groups on Facebook.
|Dec. 22, 2009||Although nobody publicly questioned him, Gregory posts a preemptive defense of his identity.
The gregoire525 Yahoo! identity was created in 2002.
|Dec. 25, 2009||
The Center for Consumer Freedom posts an article about the HSUS suit against Ringling Bros. on their website. That same day, Gregory/Preston posts a link to the article on his wall.
|Dec. 2009 - Present||Gregory joins dozens of groups associated with CCF's enemies: PETA, HSUS, Mercy for Animals, Dennis Kucinich, CREW, Sea Shepherd, SHAC, etc.. He friends prominent individuals in the fields of animal rights, veganism, and environmental protection. In all, more than 300 activists, authors, journalists, and politicians are victimized by the impostor. At least 50 of these individuals have been personally attacked on CCF websites.|
|Jan. 12, 2010||Gregory/Preston posts a message to his Facebook wall about exercising his Second Amendment rights over a satellite radio broadcast.
|Mar. 2, 2010||David Martosko posts a press release announcing the results of a CCF-commissioned poll. Later that day, Gregory/Preston refers to it on the HSUS Facebook page.
|Mar. 21, 2010||The "Stop HumaneWatch" Facebook group (SHW) is formed to combat misinformation from the Center for Consumer Freedom. Soon after, Gregory joins the group:
Martosko has made idle threats of libel suits against SHW members on several occasions.
|May 2010||David Martosko's 2008 DUI arrest is exposed on a blog critical of CCF. Martosko grudgingly admits his alcoholism on the HumaneWatch Facebook group the following day. Subsequent posts by Gregory/Preston take on a distinctly hostile tone, and he begins making inflammatory posts on the "Stop HumaneWatch" Facebook group urging members to commit acts of violence against Conklin Dairy. The comments are immediately deleted by a moderator, but not before arousing members' suspicions that Gregory might be an agent provocateur trying to incite comments that could be used against the group.|
|May 28, 2010||HumaneWatch posts a blog message inciting readers to harass Jordan Winery, an HSUS donor. That same day, Gregory/Preston harasses the Jordan Winery Facebook page.
|Jul. 8, 2010||Following a string of high-profile HumaneWatch failures -- a scathing exposé of CCF in the NY Times, a premature celebration over the Ohio Compromise that outraged CCF's agricultural supporters, and failures to convince Jordan Winery, Chipotlé, and other donors to abandon their support of the HSUS -- Martosko is arrested again on alcohol-related charges. The charges are public intoxication, swearing, and trespassing on the grounds of a church/school.|
|Jul. 16, 2010||David Martosko posts the following message on the HumaneWatch website: "Instead of seeing my name plastered on everything, you'll soon be reading articles contributed by various members of the HumaneWatch team. There will even be some outsiders sharing their own analysis."|
|Jul. 2010 - Dec. 2010||Gregory's behavior continues to become more erratic and hostile. He frequently breaks character, making disparaging remarks about animal protection groups, contradicting previous stories, defending CCF/HumaneWatch, and angrily confronting those who criticize David Martosko.
Confrontations with HumaneWatch opponents:
|Nov. 2010||Organic farmer Kevin Fulton hosts a town hall meeting with HSUS. David Martosko, reportedly acting in an erratic manner, is refused entrance. The evening culminates with Martosko accosting Mr. Fulton at a men's room urinal with a recording device. When the incident is related on SHW, Gregory responds:
|Dec. 3, 2010||Concerned members of SHW email dozens of Gregory's victims, warning them of their suspicions. Many of those individuals immediately cut off Gregory's access to their personal information.
That evening, a user posts a comment on this blog under the name "Greg", with an email of "SuckItSchiff@EatMe.com", an attack on the blog's webmaster with whom Martosko has clashed previously. Greg posts: "Where’s the DISLIKE button? Hope the money from Pacelle feels good. Your heart is a black rock."
Access logs showed that the comment originated from an Verizon FIOS subscriber in Burke, VA -- a short distance from David Martosko's house.
Two hours later, when a member of SHW refers to Martosko's behavior in Nebraska and history of alcohol abuse, Gregory explodes:
|Dec. 16, 2010||Martosko posts a blog entry calling attention to Wayne Pacelle's role in Michael Vick's rehabilitation. That evening, Gregory/Preston posts a link to that blog on the HSUS Facebook thread.
|Dec. 29, 2010||"Gregory" posts a comment on the HSUS Facebook page calling attention to the fact that Second Chance, a horse rescued by HSUS, has died. The following morning, David Martosko posts a blog entry calling attention to the fact that Second Chance has died.
|Jan. 21, 2011||"Gregory Davis" changes the name on his account to "Preston G. Davis", and begins friending activists again. On January 21st, he replies to a reader on the HumaneWatch Facebook group in the cadence, voice, and mannerisms that David Martosko uses in his administrative capacity. Nine minutes later, he notices his error and hastily tries to cover his tracks.
The post is later deleted from Gregory/Preston's Facebook wall, but not from the HumaneWatch page.
|Feb. 7, 2011||Gregory/Preston responds to a friend request from the webmaster of this site, John Doppler Schiff.
Mr. Schiff replies to that Facebook email by asking if Gregory/Preston is familiar with the people behind HumaneWatch, and provides a link to a hidden page on the humanewatch.info site. The IP address of any visitor to that page is logged. Only Gregory/Preston and Schiff know of the page's existence.
|Feb. 8, 2011||At 8:57 AM and 8:59 AM, Pacific, the link is accessed twice from IP address 220.127.116.11. This IP address traces back to the Washington, D.C. neighborhood of Martosko's employer, Berman & Company, Inc.
6:26 PM. John Doppler Schiff sends another Facebook email to Gregory/Preston, inviting him to click on a link that would "change the minds of a LOT of HumaneWatchers".
7:01 PM. Web logs show that the link is accessed from a Verizon FIOS subscriber in Burke, VA, in the same area and network as "Greg", less than a mile from David Martosko's residence. Only Schiff and Gregory/Preston know of the link's existence.
7:22 PM. Gregory/Preston opens a chat window with Schiff to ask why the links aren't working. Schiff says he will look into the problem.
7:26 PM. Gregory/Preston clearly knows he's caught, and tries to cover his tracks. He changes his profile information in Facebook; he now pretends to be from Fairfax, VA. He changes his employer; he now pretends to work for World Bank Publishing, a company close to Berman & Company's offices. He adds a work history, claiming to be employed by Trader Joes from 2008 to 2010.
This conflicts with his original cover story, when he previously claimed to be in India and Bangladesh. It also conflicts with the facts, as Trader Joe's does not have locations in Colorado.
- Someone operating under the assumed name "Gregory Davis" and "Preston G. Davis", using the account email@example.com is friending activists, authors, legislators, bloggers, and other prominent individuals on Facebook.
- Gregory/Preston makes contradictory statements about his history and his ideology.
- At least 50 of the individuals friended by Gregory/Preston have been targeted by Richard Berman and the Center for Consumer Freedom on their websites.
- Nearly all of Gregory/Preston's Facebook "likes" are directly related to issues CCF pursues.
- David Martosko is the spokesperson and Director of Research for CCF. He lives in Burke, VA, and works at CCF's offices in Washington, D.C.
- Gregory/Preston frequently makes comments and posts which mirror Martosko's writings within hours of their publication.
- Links sent privately to Gregory/Preston were subsequently visited by a person residing in Burke, VA within a mile of Martosko's house, and working in Washington, D.C. within a mile of Martosko's workplace.
- Martosko has an aggressive anti-activist agenda.
- Martosko is alleged to have stalked and photographed activists in 2007.
- Martosko has a recent history of substance abuse and erratic behavior.
- Martosko may have a concealed weapon permit.
Update March 15, 2013
A Mother Jones report has independently confirmed Martosko's impersonation of activists through court documents in the case of Human League of Philadelphia v. Berman & Co.