At least 27 of the names that were listed on the “Scotland for Marriage” petition were falsely added. This was discovered when the SfM campaign emailed all of their “supporters” to invite them to an event on Thursday against equal marriage. An array of students from Edinburgh and Glasgow university, many of them outspoken supporters of equal marriage, got the invite thanking them for their support. (Stuart Tooley, responding to the invite, wrote a model email to tell them they’d got it wrong.)
There is absolutely no reason to suppose that the Scotland for Marriage campaign coalition was deliberately adding fake signatures to bulk up their numbers. For one thing, in this particular instance all 27 of the names were added from the same computer and were all Edinburgh and Glasgow students, mostly NUS activists: if their university e-mail address were used, it’s very easy to work out what someone’s e-mail address must be, based on their name. The person who did it was probably pranking the 27 students, thinking it would be amusing to add pro-equal marriage names to an anti-equal marriage petition.
What this does demonstrate is that “Scotland for Marriage” weren’t checking to make sure all of the signatures attached to their petition were real. A stringent petition site will not let you add a signature with an email address not under your control – your signature should not appear until you have clicked on a link in an email sent to your address. Some sites also try to avoid multiple entries from the same IP address or from the same computer, though an unscrupulous person can work around them by clearing the cache between each entry or using multiple browsers.
But for this prank to work so successfully with twenty-seven fake signatures, each with a valid email address, the “Scotland for Marriage” petition must not even be taking the elementary precaution of emailing the signatory to let them know their name has been added, with a link to remove the signature if it’s been added in error. They’ve removed the 27 signatures discovered to have been falsified, but unless they now send emails to everyone listed asking them to verify their signatures, their campaign cannot honestly say that they know all 9000 signatures represent real supporters.
The “Scotland for Marriage” campaign claims that the signatures have been posted to “undermine” the group. Their own reluctance to verify each signature has undermined them. I don’t suppose anyone directly involved with the campaign was silly enough to think of bulking up the petition by adding false names. But the campaign against equal marriage is a silly campaign for hate, and it’s unsurprising that it leads people to do – and say – hateful, silly things.