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Beware of a Facebook page called Richmond Hill Voices! Who is behind this page?

Richmond Hill Voices set up a Facebook page on May 9, 2021 and using multiple targeted Facebook ads quickly garnered over 4,100 likes. They repost all kinds of feel good stories and news stories about Richmond Hill and the GTA but they never answered any questions when asked who is behind the page and quickly delete any comments that don't support their narrative.

So who is behind this mysterious Facebook page?

Research shows that Ontario Proud, a right-wing Facebook viral meme-maker and political advocacy group is behind Richmond Hill Voices as well Vaughan Voices Facebook page. They are primarily funded by large real estate developers and construction companies.

A closer look at the RH Voices Facebook advertising reveals that the address is 36 King Street East 4th floor, Toronto which is the same address as Ontario Proud and it's affiliate Canada Proud.

Similar posts with sentimental images of Ontario landmarks like the ones below are used to collect likes and followers with a goal to collect personal data and “influence voters.”

The creator of Ontario Proud and affiliate Canada Proud is Jeff Ballingall who is a former Conservative staffer, Sun News Network employee as well as a Bay Street lobbyist who served as digital director for Erin O’Toole’s successful campaign for leader of the Conservative Party of Canada. Ballingall is also a director and part-owner of The Post Millennial, a right-wing news site. He brands himself as an expert in “social media marketing” and emerging trends in big data.

Ontario Proud was the registered third party advertiser who relentlessly attacked former Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne and NDP leader Andrea Horwath in the lead-up to the 2018 provincial election. They credit themselves with getting Doug Ford elected.

So why is Ontario Proud interested in Richmond Hill politics and why are they hiding behind Richmond Hill Voices?

RH Voices has posted stories that cast Councillor Perrelli in a negative light and now are also posting negatively about Councillor West. Both running in the Richmond Hill Mayoral by-election.

However Acting Mayor Joe DiPaola seems to always be portrayed in a positive light and he is also running in the by-election.

It is well know that DiPaola has been involved with the Provincial PC party for many years so is Richmond Hill Voices/Ontario Proud trying to use their data to sway the Mayoral By-election towards DiPaola?

Furthermore given that Richmond Hill is in a Mayoral By-election should Richmond Hill Voices/Ontario Proud be considered a Third Party Advertiser?

A third party advertisement is an advertisement in any broadcast, print, electronic or other medium that has the purpose of promoting, supporting or opposing a candidate in the election

How can RH Voices/Ontario Proud use your Facebook information?

This article from November 2018 details how Ontario Proud operates including “database building” and “targeted advertising" and their fundraising pitch. According to the article Ballingall states “data on your beliefs, friends, language, organizations and taste in music” can be used for “multicultural affinity targeting” or “smart racial targeting.”

Ontario Proud says about the 2018 elections that it not only aimed to grow its base of followers” on social media for “likes, shares (and) comments,” but also to “build and leverage” a “Get-Out-To-Vote Network.”

Through advanced social media postal code targeting,” Ontario Proud can “mobilize” followers. “Our targeted advertising is reaching millions of voters in areas that will decide the next election”

Who are Ontario Proud’s biggest fans? "Our bread and butter is women 55 and older. They’re the most active on Facebook, and members of that demographic also vote in the highest numbers, so it’s important to reach those people."

Through the Richmond Hill Voices posts they have collected data on your likes, dislikes, comments and shares and maybe more depending on your privacy settings.

For example in Oct/Nov Richmond Hill Voices posted 4 surveys and ran ads for those surveys targeting hundreds of thousands of people across Ontario although the surveys were focused only on Richmond Hill.

If you responded then they now have all kinds of additional data about you and your email address if you entered it.

Regardless they have collected data on over 4000 people just on Richmond Hill Voices. Are you being manipulated?

More info about Ontario Proud

How Ontario Proud and third-party advertisers are taking aim at the federal election

Ontario Proud received nearly $460,000 in corporate donations to fund its campaign efforts with most coming from development companies and construction firms contributed the bulk of Ontario Proud's election campaign funding. See their 2018 Elections Ontario Financial Statement here.

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