By Bradley Zint
7:14 PM PDT, October 24, 2012
Costa Mesa's proposed charter measure has a lot of fans in ... Jakarta.
The Indonesian capital is the "most popular city" for an election-related Facebook page, "Yes on Measure V – Costa Mesa Charter."
"Most popular," in Facebook parlance, means "the city where most of the people talking about this page are from."
The page that supports the city's Nov. 6 ballot initiative has also seen an unexplained spike in its number of "likes" — a digital way of indicating approval. As of Wednesday, the "Yes on Measure V" page had 562 likes, the majority of which happened between Sept. 30 and Oct. 6.
While Facebook doesn't make public the identities of those who like the page as a whole, the identities of likes on individual postings are visible.
How Measure V became so popular in Southeast Asia remains something of a mystery. Jakarta is some 9,000 miles from "The City of the Arts."
Some critics contend that Measure V supporters are possibly "outsourcing" their Facebook likes. That remains possible; however, the reason for such distant support may be more innocuous, according to the social network.
A Facebook spokeswoman, pointing to a Facebook engineer's Tumblr page, said others have recently seen the same situation of unusual amounts of foreign likes.
"The explanation is pretty straightforward: The ad campaigns for promoted posts for pages are set up to optimize delivery for engagement, which can result in more international delivery," Phil Zigoris wrote on his Tumblr page, philztheengineernotthecoffee.tumblr.com. "This is partly because the cost of showing an ad varies by country, and can mean that you end up seeing more 'foreign Likes.'"
Zigoris urged Facebook page administrators to target their promoted posts to specific locations, rather than worldwide, and to an audience who has already liked the page.
Multiple requests for comment from the "Yes on Measure V" site administrator and Citizens for Costa Mesa City Charter, which is linked on the site, were not returned.
The Orange Juice Blog and Greg Ridge, a Costa Mesa resident who opposes Measure V, were the first to publicize "Yes on Measure V's" foreign Facebook likes.
On Oct. 17, the "Yes on Measure V" page posted an ad where Ridge is quoted urging voters to vote no on Measure V. The ad was modified to point out that it was supported by the OCEA, which has opposed the City Council majority's attempts to outsource city employees and pass the city charter.
Jennifer Muir, spokeswoman for the OCEA, which represents some of Costa Mesa's employees, said the page, on its face, "looks absolutely deceptive. It looks like they're trying to manufacture the appearance of community support that's not there."
Measure V supporters have argued that the influence of outsiders, such as organized labor, is detrimental to city politics, and that public employees' retirement pensions have put Costa Mesa's coffers in dire financial straits.
As of Wednesday, there did not appear to be any Facebook pages campaigning specifically against Measure V.