Appendix 1: Identifying the ‘Savage Squad’
Identifying Adam Spencer
The first productive lead in our efforts to identify the individuals profiting from the memes on celebrity Facebook pages came from the discovery that some of the groups involved in promoting “memevertisements” were operated by the Facebook profile of a man named Adam Spencer. In some cases, those memes appeared on prominent timelines not as their own posts but in the form of reshares from pages solely dedicated to memes. One frequently reshared meme page is named Savage FAM, shown here in a May 2018 snapshot from the Facebook timeline of Cheech and Chong:
On Facebook, Spencer is publicly listed as the manager of the Savage FAM page, among other pages:
Screenshot taken Feb 7, 2020.
These facts suggested to us that Spencer could plausibly be involved in placing these memes on celebrity pages. (We reached out to representatives for most individuals we found to be sharing memes. Most, including representatives for Snoop Dogg, did not respond. Others, like those for Cheech and Chong, were unable or unwilling to explain the memes’ presence on their clients’ pages, even letting the memes remain live months later. Spencer did not respond to our request for comment via Facebook messenger.)
The next task was to figure out if Spencer owned domain names like pornhubhoes.com, or if he worked with or might have known someone who did. We found no evidence Spencer owned these websites, so we searched for a potential partner.
Identifying Ryan Hodge
Another page operated by Spencer is named Savage Life. Facebook’s page-transparency tool indicates that two U.K. users maintain the Savage Life page. Notably, the page references an online shop named Savagery Gifts. Searching this name and similar words in the the U.K.’s Companies House business database led us to discover a company named Savagery’s Gifts Limited. That company lists two directors: Spencer and Ryan Hodge — the latter name was new to us.
We found Hodge on Facebook, where he has previously referred to himself as “founder” of the Savage Squad:
Screenshot taken Feb 7, 2020
Screenshots taken on Jul 22, 2019
We searched Domain Name System (DNS) records to see if any hookup-style websites were registered to anyone with that name. Several fit the bill. A subset of those pages was registered using the same hosting company, 123-Reg Limited. These pages all had names similar to the URLs that appeared in memes shared by celebrity Facebook pages. Here’s a list of those websites:
The presence of humourhub.uk supports our conclusion that this is the same Ryan Hodge as the one we found on Facebook, where Hodge has described himself as “founder” of Humor Hub. More significantly, hungryhoes.com on the list above was one of the fake domain names shared by celebrities or high-follower pages. For example, a May 2018 post from YouTuber and social influencer Brad Holmes promoted that page:
Tying the Squad to Other Fake Landing Pages
Hungryhoes.com, based on DNS data, was registered by an organization named UKPromotions. An organization with that name is associated with a “Ryan Hodge” and was created using a non-anonymous email address. We searched all domains registered to this email address to see if we could identify any more hookup-evoking websites commonly featured in the memes shared by celebrities. Those websites are found here:
Not all of these websites appeared in celebrity memes, but they are similar in appearance or function to those that did. Significantly, the website wildsmash.com — registered to the same email mentioned above — provides a digital link to some of the significant pages we did find shared or reshared on celebrity pages. Wildsmash.com was one of seven websites hosted at an IP address that included the aforementioned hungryhoes.com, and the celebrity-promoted websites plentyofhoes.com and fish4hoes.com:
Below are examples of rappers The Game and Bow Wow sharing memes to those websites:
One page managed by Spencer is the aforementioned Savage FAM, which has repeatedly shared memes to plentyofhoes.com:
Savage FAM, therefore, is an example of Spencer controlling a Facebook meme page that directs people to a Hodge-owned domain name. Because the two interact about their internet activity online, have a previous documented business relationship, and have clear ties to many of the meme pages and landing pages at issue in this story, we have concluded that Spencer and Hodge are or were primary beneficiaries of this meme scheme.
Further, Savage FAM Facebook posts that advertise pornhubhoes.com and other related websites have been shared by Cheech and Chong. We infer from this evidence, at the very least, that the Savage Squad has benefited — or have attempted to benefit — financially from the fake hookup memes on Cheech and Chong pages.
Neither Hodge nor Spencer responded to repeated inquiries via email and Facebook messenger for comment.