Over the last several years, a great deal of attention has been given to various issues surrounding social media, including the existence of fake accounts created to influence public opinion.
Facebook reports that it blocks or deletes billions of fake accounts each year. The Courier has also reported on the role of social media in the 2016 presidential election in its article featuring Joel Barlow alumnus and former Eastonite David Carroll.
Easton appears to be experiencing its own local example of this global and national trend. Recently, a Facebook account claiming to be a woman named Renee DeVitto from Redding, Conn. posted messages critical of state Rep. Ann Hughes to the groups Easton CT Happenings, We Are Easton, CT and Easton 411.
After the message was deleted from the Easton 411 Facebook group for violating its “no political messages” rule, the following message was posted to the group from the same Renee DeVitto account:
Easton 411 group member Dr. Beth Natt contacted the Easton Courier after she and several other group members were unable to find any evidence that a person named Renee DeVitto lives in Redding. Natt and others conducted a reverse image search using the Renee DeVitto account’s main profile image and found the same image in an online dating profile of a 39-year old woman from Bogota, Colombia:
Another reverse image search using the profile’s cover photo found the same image of a man and a boy in a story about a single gay white father and his adopted Black son published on the Colorlines news site in 2010:
An additional search for the image of the young woman included in the profile’s cover photo appears to be the same image from the profile of a 20-year-old woman on the website CastYou.in, a digital casting agency in India.
The public information for the Renee DeVitto Facebook account states that DeVitto works at Domestic Violence Awareness and as a social worker and case manager in the Domestic Violence Department, but does not link to any specific employers. A search for a licensed social worker in the state of Connecticut named Renee DeVitto using the https://www.elicense.ct.gov/Lookup/LicenseLookup.aspx website returned no entries for a current or lapsed license.
The account for Renee DeVitto from Redding has “liked” six Facebook pages from Easton, including the official Easton town account, Easton Police Department, Easton Volunteer Fire Department, Easton Neighbors Magazine, Easton Community Center, and Easton Animal Shelter. No pages are “liked” from any other town or city, including Redding. The account has also “liked” the Facebook page John Shaban for State Rep and five Facebook pages for musicians/bands.
The profile also states that Renee DeVitto from Redding is married, has studied at the University of Connecticut, and that the account was created in September 2020. One of the account’s three publicly shared posts on its main profile page provides the following explanation for the account’s recent creation date:
I am so sorry that I have been gone for so long. All of my Social Media accounts were hacked. After trying all that I could to recover any/all of my accounts the only option I was left with is starting over. So at this point all I can do is rebuild. I lost my entire friends list, photos, & all posts. I’m go to be spending quite some time reposting everything that was lost.
It does not appear that any additional content has been re-posted or that any other social media accounts exist for a Renee DeVitto from Redding, Conn. At the time of this article’s publication, the account was still active and posting to at least one Easton-affiliated Facebook group.