RBS suspects foul play in online note naming campaign

Scottish civil engineer Thomas Telford. Picture: GettyScottish civil engineer Thomas Telford. Picture: Getty
Scottish civil engineer Thomas Telford. Picture: Getty
Bank bosses have postponed the announcement of the new face of the RBS £10 note amid suggestions of foul play.

Earlier this month RBS launched a Facebook campaign to determine which Scottish “genius” would appear on their newly minted notes

When voting opened to the public on February 1, Mary Somerville – whose work led to the discovery of Neptune – stormed into the lead.

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But a last-minute flurry of votes cast on Sunday in favour of engineer Thomas Telford, from places as far-flung as India, Vietnam and Iraq, pushed him into first place.

An RBS spokesman said: “As a result of one candidate attracting a high volume of votes in a short space of time, we are looking to establish if these votes were genuine.

“We will announce the new face of the £10 note as soon as we can.”

Many of the votes cast in Telford’s name appear to have been made using Facebook profiles registered abroad and many of the profiles also appeared to be lacking in activity – indicating the possibility that they are fakes being used by “compers”, individuals who sell their votes for such polls online.

In comparison a far higher proportion of the votes cast for Somerville seem to have been made from profiles registered in the UK and Scotland.

It is believed the rush of voting might be linked to “swarming” or “brigading”.

Bernie Hogan – a research fellow at the Oxford Research Institute – said: “Swarming or brigading can happen in an online poll if you have the right group targeting at the right time. If this was a malicious group, then that’s a problem, so it’s worth them looking into this. In a normal election you would get voting registration cards to make sure it’s all fair.”

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Katy Howell, chief executive of Immediate Future, a social media consultancy, said that the voting irregularities were probably caused by either a technical glitch, malicious bots, sabotage or “compers”. She explained: “It’s more than likely bots gaming the system. Or sometimes, sadly, people manually do these things.”

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