Numerous whistleblowers have come forward to expose the group owner of viral Facebook group ‘Bernie Sanders’ Dank Meme Stash‘ over corruption allegations. The owner, Will Dowd, has reportedly been filtering posts made in the 446,000 member group to contain ‘clickbait’ sites that maximise advertising revenue for self-profits. Dowd reportedly demanded a lump sum of $15,000 to completely halt the paid content being posted, and until then, charges around $150 per paid post. These figures are not confirmed, however it is confirmed that Dowd has received payments for posts through private messages given to Next Generation Blogs.
In most States, it is illegal to profit from another individual’s name or likeness. This means that, if the strong allegations hold true, Dowd will have broken the law and could be open to be sued by the Bernie Sanders campaign.
Through a screenshot provided by the numerous whitleblowers, the page has over 100,000 pending posts. Through private messages shared with Next Generation Blogs by former admin Thomas Scheer, Dowd is seen admitting to accepting payments for filtered posts. He is also reported as instructing page ‘admins’ and ‘moderators’ to only let paid content through by accepting predetermined ‘posters’. Another screenshot provided by Zack, shows Dowd admitting that at one point he received “140 a week”.
When being confronted for this by a former admin, Dowd suggested that he “wasn’t really” guilty for accepting payments for approved posts to the viral page, suggesting it was to “pay for college”. In another private message, he admitted he hadn’t disclosed the exact amount he receives per paid post, stating he “thought he may get caught”, before suggesting it was over $140.
When another former admin quizzed him over his actions, Dowd stated he “would worry when lawyers are at my door”, seemingly unaware that accepting payments under another’s name without consent is highly illegal and could lead to the Sanders’ campaign sueing Dowd and ultimately closing the 446,000 member group down permanently. According to the former admin whistleblowers, Dowd instructed them not to accept the ‘normal’ posts of memes, images and posts relating to Bernie, instead only allowing pre-paid content and ‘clickbait’ links through, essentially filtering the public content of the viral page. This also falls under ‘false pretense’, misleading individuals to join a cause under false intentions.
Whilst specifics are unknown, the whistleblowers suggested to me that Dowd could potentially be making upwards of $150 per poster per week, and over $1000 per week. Given the size and age of the group, this could amount to a considerable sum of interest to the Sanders campaign. The former admins told me that they would spend up to hours each day approving particular posts for Dowd.
When one former moderator rebelled against Dowd’s demands by rejecting paid content, she noticed her moderator rights were stripped by the next morning. When the owner’s inentions were once made public to the group, he received intense backlash however promised to agree for it to not happen again. Ever since, the members of the page have been unaware of the corruption occuring in the group. From the 4th March 2016, the page was made ‘closed’, reportedly so that Dowd could monitor content more closely.
All the admins and moderators were volunteers and worked for free within their free time, many of whom are full time students, balancing a job or have children. When speaking with Next Generation Blogs, they suggested the workload was “intense” and “demanding”, arguing that Dowd was too agressive and often vulgar in his communications and allegedly calling an admin a “faggot” once. Another moderator informed me that “the moderators did everything in their power to try and [stop the paid content]”, adding “it resulted in us getting berated by both Will Dowd and the members of the group”.
The whistleblowers, listed below, have all called for Will Dowd, the groups original owner, to leave his position and hand it to someone else in order to keep the page open for the members to enjoy it without corruption or illegal activity.
“We, the below named, call for Will Dowd, the current owner of Bernie Sanders’ Dank Meme Stash (BSDMS), to resign his position, and hand ownership to another individual with no connection to Dowd”:
Sean Walsh, Co-creator of BSDMS
Anonymous, Former administrator
Thomas Scheer, Former administrator
Megan Chestnut, Former moderator
Tiffany Adams, Former moderator
Anonymous, Former moderator
Anthony Ibanez, Former moderator
Zack Harris, Former administrator
Courtney Laurel, Former assistant to moderators
Corey Smith, Former moderator
The Bernie Sanders campaign has been contacted in regards to this, and are yet to reply. The most beneficial goal is to remove Dowd as owner and leave the page intact for the enjoyment of the public. BSDMS link.
– Benjamin John Wareing