A Utah college professor helped create and cultivate a fake identity as a tea party activist for nearly two years, using a fictional Facebook account to deceive thousands of conservatives as part of an elaborate “performance art” project, The Daily Caller has learned.
In an attempt to trick national news outlets, Lacey Bassett, masquerading as tea party activist Anna Jones, claimed last week that her Facebook page had been hacked and vandalized. TheDC’s investigation, however, indicates that Bassett organized the vandalism herself. [UPDATE: 90 minutes after this story was published, Anna Jones’ page vanished from Facebook.]
Bassett teaches web design at Provo College and works as a graduate-level instructor at the University of Utah. Her effort to blend in with conservatives apparently began in April 2010, when she tweeted about “infiltrating [a] Tea Parting gathering.” Two months later, she used her own email address to register the domain name “Liber-Tea.com.”
The domain is protected by a “proxy” service that hides the identity of its registrant, but TheDC was able to identify Bassett as the owner by searching archival records created before she enrolled with her proxy provider.
The site became the online home of “Anna Jones,” a self-described tea party activist who would go on to attract 5,000 followers on Facebook — the maximum allowed by the social networking giant.
The site is offline now, but a copy saved by the Archive.org “Wayback Machine” service suggests that it was used to sell tea party merchandise.
“The Liber-Tea is your official supplier of the highest quality Tea Party goods and accessories available anywhere,” the site said. Its home page included a personal note from “Anna Jones, Founder.” Libert-Tea also had a presence on Twitter and on Google’s Blogspot platform.
Before TheDC told “Jones” that her online activities were traceable, she boasted about her popularity and mentioned plans to run for office.
“[I] get about 50 friend requests a day and at least 20 messages,” she said. “It is really hard to keep up, so I’ve been on break for a while.”
A tour of the “Anna Jones” Facebook page reveals a dashing profile picture and hundreds of comments from tea party members and other conservatives.
The phony tea party activist remained relatively quiet during the past year, responding only occasionally to followers’ comments and Facebook posts. But on Friday, she announced on the same Facebook page that she had been the victim of a hacker.
“I am sorry to inform you that my facebook page was hatched [sic] last night by a horrible “performance” artist Mona Del Hirst,” she wrote.
“The page was hatched from 6-10 last night. All correspondence durning that time period was done durring an art show where she opened up my page for drunk gallery viewers to post on. I am furious for the invasion of privacy and I am pressing charges.”
At the time, Monadelhirst.com, a website corresponding to the name of the “performance artist” supposedly behind the Internet vandalism, consisted of an announcement of a March 22 performance. It advertised an “online guerrilla art attack on tea party activist Anna Jones” from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. in a special “one-night only” show in a vacant Utah warehouse.