Like many other first year conventions, Wine Country Comic Con (April 23-24, Santa Rosa, CA) is trying to promote as hard as they can. Some people have complained about the convention spamming various Facebook groups (including the tip email that pointed us to this), but it’s not really surprising that a new con might get a bit overzealous when it comes to getting the word out.
What is surprising though is the person doing this promotion. The bulk of these posts come from the account of one “Frida Avila.” This is only notable because of one very important thing…
…there is no Frida Avila.
“Frida Avila” is a fiction. A construct created to spam various accounts. While clearly a lot of effort has been put into crafting this fake persona (more than most people would bother with at least) it still immediately falls apart when one takes a closer look.
Which is, y’know, what we’re going to do now.
The Unethical Promoter
To say the Frida Avila Facebook account has been used to post a lot in groups to promote Wine Country Comic Con would be an understatement. The tip we received specifically mentioned “California Conventions and Cosplay,” but as it is a closed group that I’m not a member of, I did a few searches to find any other posts.
It’s clear from all of this that Avila is directly affiliated with Wine Country Comic Con. Of course, this affiliation that hasn’t stopped her from ethically questionable decisions like reviewing the convention on Facebook.
So before going any further forward, we know know from this that “Frida Avila” isn’t exactly honest. Of course, if you dig through the reviews of a con (which has yet to ever happen), you’ll find other staffers giving glowing reviews as well.
But at least some of those other staffers are real people though.
The Woman Who Wasn’t
The Frida Avila account first went online in the second half of 2015. It was soon filled with random personal posts, promotion for Wine Country Comic Con, and — well — photos of a young, dark haired woman.
And when I say photos, I mean a lot of photos. Scrolling through the account’s Facebook gallery I wouldn’t blame you if you assumed she must be a real person.
But these photos are definitely not of the person running the Facebook page for “Frida Avila.” A few image searches show that they’re of a young Ukrainian woman named Liza Kostetskaya/Elza Kostecki.
Kostecki (I’ll go with the name she uses on Facebook) has posted all of the photos found on “Frida Avila’s” account on either her own Facebook page or her VK.com page, in some cases literally years prior to their appearance on “Avila’s.”
Kostecki, unlike “Avila,” appears to be a real person, yet “Avila” keeps pretending that photos of the Ukrainian are “her.” But when you take away the photos, “Frida Avila” has no other online presence beyond promoting Wine Country Comic Con.
Because, again, “Frida Avila” isn’t real.
Who? What? Why?
While we really can’t be sure who exactly is behind the account, Wine Country Comic Con promoter “Shinobi” Uriel Brena bears the ultimate responsibility. Even if he isn’t controlling it himself, he’s still benefiting from this fake staffer’s work.
This isn’t the first time I’ve seen something like this. Other cons have tried it before, and I will never understand why. I mean, it’s a lot of work to go through the effort of constructing fake people to represent their events. Brena (or someone working for him) had to occasionally go back and steal more images from Kostecki to maintain this charade. I don’t know if the people who do it think it’ll make their organization look larger (thus more legitimate), or if the events are setting up fake fall people to take the blame if things go wrong. Also, for some reason these fake people are usually “women” (sockpuppeteered by male staffers).
It’s as if con organizers who do this are trying to catfish their own attendees.
And that’s creepy, right? Tell me I’m not the only one who thinks that’s creepy. Conventions done correctly are the foundation of local geek communities, and when these events are constructed and promoted on lies it hurts us all.
Of course, that’s if the community wants to show up to a con doing something so sketchy.
Update (3/1): So we dug into this some more, and it gets a whole lot more interesting.