Community activist apologizes for creating fake mayoral candidate Paul Paolatto website

Shawn Adamsson (right), a community activist and ardent supporter of rapid transit, published an apology Saturday night for a “satirical” website he created in December 2017 to criticize Paul Paolatto (left), who finished second in last year’s municipal election. Paul Paolatto/Facebook, Shawn Adamsson/Facebook

Nineteen months after it was created, a London community activist has admitted he’s the person behind a fake website about formal mayoral candidate Paul Paolatto.

Shawn Adamsson, a community activist and ardent supporter of rapid transit, published an apology Saturday night for a “satirical” website he created in December 2017 to criticize Paolatto, who finished second in last year’s municipal election.

980 CFPL was the first to report on the fake website. When approached by 980 CFPL at the time, Adamsson denied being its creator.

The fake Paolatto website was close to the original. Paolatto’s blog is called The Paolatto Report while Adamsson’s look-alike blog was called “Paolatto Report.”

READ MORE: Blackridge Strategy defends fake campaign websites

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A Twitter account called @PaolattoReport, was also created but was removed by Twitter only days later for violating their rules regarding impersonation.

The fake Paolatto website accused the London businessman of violating campaign finance rules. Paolatto bought billboard advertisements promoting his blog months before candidates were allowed to spend money on their campaigns.

“In my rush to do something clever, I ended up doing something stupid and I may have offended Paul and members of his campaign team,” said Adamsson in his apology blog. “Campaigning for mayor is emotional, exhausting work and nobody needs an anonymous jerk taking cheap shots from the peanut gallery.”

READ MORE: Websites targeting incumbent London councillors during 2018 election registered to 2 men: court documents

Adamsson wrote he made political discourse worse, not better, during the campaign.

“I should have been striving to make political dialogue better and instead I dragged it down and in a way that I often condemn.”

In a tweet, Paolatto accepted Adamsson’s apology and said he now considered the matter closed.

Adamsson’s blog post comes less than a month after Blackridge Strategy admitted to creating fake websites about Ward 5 Coun. Maureen Cassidy and former Ward 10 Coun. Virginia Ridley during last year’s election.

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Court documents linked Blackridge co-owner Amir Farahi to the fake websites. While Blackridge said it was behind the websites, it said in a statement they stood behind them and didn’t apologize.

Since then, a campaign worker for Ward 10 Coun. Paul Van Meerbergen, who defeated Ridley, has come forward and said he hired the local PR firm to create the Ridley website.

Ward 5 candidate Randy Warden said he was unaware of the fake Cassidy website, but took responsibility for it and apologized for “agents or volunteers” acting on his behalf.

READ MORE: Misinformation campaign starts early ahead of London 2018 municipal election

After the Blackridge story broke, Adamsson was critical of those who create fake websites and wrote on Twitter on May 30 that he was glad Farahi and Blackridge had finally been dragged out of the shadows for their “disgusting stunt.”

In another tweet on June 1, Adamsson said he believed Farahi deserves a second chance if he takes responsibility while also saying he deserved to “pay a high price for his stupid actions.”

Aside from apologizing to Paolatto and his campaign team, Adamsson also apologized to his friends and acquaintances, Ridley and Cassidy, and his wife Jodi.

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Adamsson ended the blog saying he would strive to do better.

“I screwed up and I’ll try to do better, to be better.”

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