I know many of you have spent months refreshing your browsers to check on the progress of our e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting. So have I. We can all do it a little less often now as we have crossed the magic 100,000 signature barrier which should deliver us a debate in the Westminster parliament.
A small group of us, including Chris Packham and myself, have taken to texting each other as the e-petition has passed each thousand-signature mark and it’s difficult to get out of the habit of watching the numbers click over. So last night I was watching the petition site as it passed 107,000 signatures and when I next looked it was racing away and passed 108,000 and 109,000 in very quick time. This was initially welcome but then seemed very strange. It felt wrong and so I tweeted as follows…
…where you can see that I included the House of Commons Petitions Committee to alert them (at about 10pm).
I also contacted LACS Chief Exec (Eduardo Goncalves), Chris Packham and other supporters to see whether they had any idea what was going on – they didn’t.
To cut a long story short, it seems that there was a bot automatically sending lots of signatures to the site (I didn’t know these things were possible but apparently they are – see the tweet by @AdamAdamsSmith above). This has happened before – maybe it happens a lot, but I’m glad to say the petitions site is wise to this and (don’t ask me how) they have a way of detecting it and correcting it. And so later in the night we lost about 2000 signatures and went back to close to where we were before this little episode.
That’s good. We’re not looking to gain by underhand means.
It is a sad situation that these things happen – it’s a bit like phishing, and spam emails – the digital world gives us great opportunities but also brings out the worst in some people (as we have seen).
So we are all left wondering who did it. I’ll wager my £5 to your £1 that it was an opponent of our campaign rather than a proponent who was responsible. It was interesting that some trolls (I guess they are people really) raised this slur against us the other day and then a number of pro-shooting (most decidedly pro-shooting) accounts were crying foul while this happened. It was almost as though they were expecting it.
Did you watch Countryfile yesterday evening? More on that later.