WASHINGTON — Visit Mitt Romney’s page on Facebook and you’ll see 11.6 million “likes.” Lee Wolf, a self-described liberal who likes nothing about Romney’s politics, was stunned to hear from friends on the online social network that his name had popped up as one of the apparent supporters.
“I don’t believe in anything he says,’’ said Wolf, who owns the Lobster Shanty, a restaurant in downtown Salem, Mass. “I’m still wondering how it happened.”
Others are wondering, too.
“This happened to me!! I keep unliking the Mitt Romney, but his posts keep coming back!! So frustrating!! Go Obama!!!” wrote Facebook user Sabeen Shamsi, one of 676 people who “liked” a Facebook page dubbed “Hacked by Mitt Romney” created last month to denounce how their “accounts are being signed up for Mitt Romney’s page without the owner’s permission.”
The culprit was unclear. A Romney spokesperson declined to comment, and a spokeswoman for Facebook could not explain apparent glitches but said the company would look into the matter.
“I don’t think Mitt Romney is sitting at his keyboard doing this,” said Mark Turner, a computer systems administrator in Raleigh, N.C.. who set up the “hacked by’’ Romney page. He suspects a software issue.
Still, Turner said it was upsetting, “because they’re putting words in my mouth.”
A spokeswoman for Facebook could not explain why people were unknowingly showing up as Romney backers.
With 60 percent of American adults connected via social media portals such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, online communities are an important part of the political process.
Thirty-nine percent of American adults have taken some kind of civic or political action using social networks, such as encouraging friends to vote or advocating a political position, said Aaron Smith, a Pew researcher.
“Recommendations from people they know or people like them can be more powerful than people they don’t know,” Smith said.
It is understandable, he said, why some would be upset that they are being portrayed as having beliefs they do not hold. Imagine, he said, if an Obama yard sign suddenly appeared on the front lawn of a Romney supporter.
“What appears on people’s social networking sites is a self-curated picture of who they are,” Smith said.
Wolf is not sure how he came to “like” Mitt Romney. If the date stamp on his Facebook account is to be believed, it happened at 2:15 a.m. on July 17.
On the early morning of July 16, he “liked” rapper Jay Z, car racer Danica Patrick, and Grey Goose Vodka.
“It’s highly unlikely that I pressed “like” on any of these things,” he insisted.
A friend alerted Wolf that something was amiss.
“I don’t want to give friends the wrong impression, that somehow I actually agree with the things he stands for.”
Wolf thought it was a glitch. But Thursday, he saw that buried in his list of 470 “likes” was Romney’s mug.
“Now that I know it’s actually there,” he said, “I’ll ‘unlike’ it as soon as we hang up.”