Ars technica has posted a great analysis on the Ron Paul cult phenomenon. They answer the question many of us have been asking for a long time. Is Ron Paul’s online support real?
Turns out, it may not be. Also, they might be breaking the law:
The University of Alabama-Birmingham’s computer forensics research department, which collects spam messages as part of its Spam Data Mining for Law Enforcement Applications project, analyzes hundreds of thousands of e-mail messages per month. When it began getting bombarded with e-mails about Ron Paul immediately following a Republican debate on TV, the lab began to examine their origin and saw consistent patterns that it described as “disturbing.”
The e-mails originated from IPs all over the world, but researchers’ suspicions were aroused when they found that the e-mails purported to come from different countries than their IPs indicated. Messages claiming to come from the US were actually coming from Korea, for example, and messages claiming to come from Italy were actually coming from the US. The pattern showed that the messages were clearly not coming from Ron Paul’s official campaign, but rather illegitimate spam operations and botnets.
“We’ve seen many previous e-mails reported as spam from other campaigns or parties, but when we’ve investigated them, they all were sent from the legitimate parties,” department director Gary Warner said in a statement. In contrast, the Ron Paul messages clearly came from a number of other parties attempting to spoof where they came from. Paul’s campaign may run afoul of the authorities as a result of these e-mails. Warner believes that the messages may violate the CAN-SPAM Act due to their deceptive sending practices.