New revelations aggravate fake pro-Faymann mails row

Another leading newspaper has confirmed that it received fake letters to the editor filed from a server run by the Social Democrats (SPÖ).

The Kurier, a Vienna-based broadsheet, reports today (Thurs) that at least 393 e-mails signed by nonexistent people were sent to its office in the past two years. The daily disclosed that SPÖ Chancellor Werner Faymann was praised “for fighting for the poorest of the poor” and for a “top performance” in a TV interview as far as contents and rhetoric were regarded. The SPÖ chairman is lauded in another fake e-mail filed to the Kurier for “preventing planned taxes affecting the masses.”

SPÖ General Secretary Laura Rudas said: “We do not need approving e-mails sent from within the party. This is not a method we are using.” SPÖ officials argued it was impossible to find out who filed the suspicious mails since 700 to 800 people and departments within the party accessed the World Wide Web (WWW) with the same internet protocol (IP) address. The Kurier stressed that it checked the identity of the editors of the fake e-mails but found that they appeared to be made up. Some SPÖ representatives claimed competitors could be behind the prank.

The Kurier’s disclosures come on the heels of a report by Heute revealing that its team found out as well that many e-mails sent to the editor, in which Faymann’s policies were lauded, were filed from accounts connected to the SPÖ’s IP address. Heute, a popular free daily newspaper published in Vienna, also reported that some of the e-mails included pictures of the alleged creator which turned out to be stock photos offered by picture agencies.

The e-mail controversy bears some resemblance to the troubles Faymann is experiencing in trying to garner support among people using social media on the WWW. Investigative research by Austrian papers and magazines suggest that many of the chancellor’s friends on social networking portal Facebook were fake characters. The alleged fraud was exposed since the Facebook users in question named few other personal interests but supporting Faymann’s political agenda. Some of the scrutinised profiles’ photographs apparently showing the persons running them turned out to be images created and sold by photo agencies.

The Freedom Party (FPÖ) – which is in opposition to the government coalition of the SPÖ with the People’s Party (ÖVP) of Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger – filed a parliamentary request to find out how much money the chancellor’s office spent on his cyber activities. Government officials informed the right-wing party that Faymann’s office spent 55,000 Euros on the conception of his presence on Facebook, short message site Twitter, video community YouTube and picture platform Flickr. Managing the project will cost 15,000 Euros, according to the Kurier. The newspaper reports today that Faymann’s office also said that maintenance costs were expected to range around 2,000 Euros a month.

These official figures follow claims by Die Presse that the SPÖ already invested 98,000 Euros into its chief’s internet activities. The conservative newspaper reported last week that costs may be higher than 200,000 Euros in the next few months. Political analyst and book author Thomas Hofer told Die Presse he considered Faymann’s Facebook presence as “boring”. Wolfgang Bachmayer of public opinion research company OGM said speaking to the Kurier yesterday that the under-fire SPÖ head’s latest endeavours in cyberspace turned into a “PR disaster” since credibility and trust were “harmed substantially” by the latest revelations.