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Politics

A History Of Grant Shapps' Online Activities

The Conservative party chairman has repeatedly faced questions over his internet activities. Here is a timeline.

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July 2007: Shapps is accused of pretending to be a Lib Dem in the comments of a YouTube video while forgetting he's logged in under his own name.

Under this official Liberal Democrats video, a comment is posted which reads, "Okay, realistically we’re not going to win though. Especially since the Tories have just received 5 defecting Councillors from Labour. Don’t quite know how they’ve done it, but the Tories have stolen a march on us this time."

The comment is made by a Grant Shapps, and clicking through the name takes you to what appears to be his YouTube account, which Lib Dem Voice points out is linked to from his own website.

A blog post by Conservative commentator Iain Dale quoted a Conservative spokesperson who said it appeared Shapps' account had been hacked, because his password was "1234". Shapps denied any involvement.

July 2012: Shapps is accused of using a bot to pick up Twitter followers.

Twitter: @grantshapps

Political Scrapbook reported that Shapps, "may be trying to pull the oldest trick in the book: repeatedly following and unfollowing other users in a lame attempt to boost their own numbers." It points out a number of people on Twitter have become aware of this activity.

Grant Shapps has only followed and unfollowed me twice. And I thought I was special to him. #weeps

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The websites had also been relegated to the bottom of its search results, the Guardian reported.

According to the paper:

The network of websites, which includes howto-findhappiness.com and meaning-of-dreams.com, breached the rules by replicating content from other sites in a process known as "spinning and scraping" in order to jump higher up Google's search rankings and increase advertising revenue.

The paper explained how Shapps' mother, Beryl, was the company secretary and his sister also "involved" in the business behind www.auctiongirl.co.uk, a website owned by Shapps' HowtoCorp.com. It sold items on eBay for clients in exchange for half the takings.

September 2012: It emerges that Shapps posed under a pseudonym as a web guru at a Las Vegas conference.

Flickr: rosalindgardner

After the above picture, showing Shapps wearing a name badge that says "Michael Green" leaked on Flickr, the Guardian reported that in 2004 Shapps was "passing himself off as Green and began to appear at web marketing conferences – speaking at a $2,797-a-ticket convention in Las Vegas's New York New York Hotel and Casino".

According to the Daily Mail: "Mr Shapps continued to use the name Michael Green for his business interests throughout the 2005 election campaign and his early years as an opposition MP. ‘Mr Green’ charged clients £183 an hour for advice on how to make money from the web as well as offering tips on how to beat the recession blues, including splashing out on a jet-ski or learning to play the guitar."

The Guardian reported that Green "offered products and coaching services guaranteed to generate income". The paper described how, "using the website MichaelGreenConsulting.com, which operated from 2004 until it was removed from the internet in 2009, Shapps claimed to run the 'world's largest internet marketing forum' with his company How To Corp."

September 2012: Shapps is also revealed to have altered his Wikipedia biography.

Youtube

Shapps deleted references to his time at school, the identity of political donors and references to his political gaffes, while adding a section on his work with the homeless the Observer claimed.

The paper reported:

A source close to Shapps said the deletion of the reference to his qualifications had been made because the O-level entry was incorrect and he had "five not four O-levels". A spokesman refused to comment on the grades he had attained.

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Around this time Shapps is chased around Conservative party conference by Michael Crick over the allegations.

According to the Telegraph:

The probe into Mr Shapps is focusing on his claims to be a self-help guru called Michael Green on a website called howtocorp.com.

A complaint to the ASA alleges that the website misled the public by presenting Michael Green as a genuine businessman with a personal fortune of £17 million, who would share the secrets of his success for a fee.

The case is eventually closed. An ASA spokesperson says: "We have resolved the matter informally with How To Corp. We have received assurances that the marketer will in future make clear if pseudonyms are used and that they will not use testimonials in the absence of adequate evidence."

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Just FYI.

Why on earth does Grant Shapps follow me? Maybe it is to find out my opinions on non league football. #thatllbeit

November 2014: Shapps hires a law firm retained by the Conservatives to put legal pressure on a constituent who claimed on Facebook that he pursued his business interests after becoming an MP.

Carl Court / Getty Images

According to the Telegraph: "The Conservative party chairman hired Hill Dickinson to pressure one of his constituents to take down critical comments from the internet last November." The law firm reportedly asked the constituent to make clear Shapps had used the name Michael Green, "to separate business and politics, prior to entering Parliament”.

March 2015: Shapps confirms he did use the name Michael Green while an MP.

.@labourpress Old story: all properly declared at the time and all many years ago. Labour just hate business.

Shapps had consistently denied ever using his pen name while in parliament. However, the Guardian found a recording from 2006 in which he boasts his products can make listeners a “ton of cash by Christmas”.

The paper's report continues: "Posing as [Michael] Green, Shapps tells fellow web entrepreneur Peter Twist that “[Stinking Rich] is not a cheap product, but it’s a great internet marketing product”.

April 2015: Shapps, or someone close to him, is accused of making more anonymous edits to Wikipedia.

youtube.com

Wikipedia blocked a user account “on suspicions that it is being used by the Conservative party chair, Grant Shapps, ‘or someone acting on his behalf’”, according to the Guardian.

The edits include positive changes to some pages – including Shapps’ biography – and hostile edits to pages belonging to his political critics and other senior Conservatives.

His team deny the accusations and claim they are politically motivated.

.@jimwaterson it is, for the record, another false smear from the Guardian. Without any truth whatsoever.

The Wikipedia editor who made the claims is later revealed to be a sometime Liberal Democrat activist, prompting further claims by Shapps' team that the story is a stitch-up.

Alan White is a news editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Alan White at alan.white@buzzfeed.com.

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