“The Three A’s” of Identifying a Twitter Bot

By: Account Executive Brook O’Meara-Sayen

1.jpgIn my last blog piece, I discussed what a Twitter bot is, provided an extremely basic overview of how they’re made, and discussed how Twitter bots can make and change sentiment online. Much of the recent social discourse regarding bots has been negative, mainly due to revelations that Russia utilized a veritable army of bots in 2016 in their attempt to influence the US Presidential Election. Russia used its bots to move online sentiment, creating the impression that hashtags campaigns and other orchestrated social media content were coming from actual voters, and not a shadowy office building in St. Petersburg, Russia. To do this, they relied on the assumption that the everyday American Twitter user wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between a bot and person. In many cases, they were right. Russia also had a dedicated team of ‘professional trolls’ working in tandem with the bots, making it hard to discern who was mechanical, and who wasn’t. However, most bots are still relatively easy to find–and ubiquitous. An estimated 9-15 percent of all Twitter accounts are bots.

So, how is one able to identify a bot in your feed? Attempting to weed out bots isn’t foolproof, and the tips I’m about to give will not always work. They will allow you to analyze and think critically about the suspicious accounts you may come across. One of the easiest ways to identify a bot is by looking at post frequency and identity, by using “The Three A’s”, a system coined by the Digital Forensics Research Lab.


  1. ACTIVITY, or how much do you post?

Machines are great because they can perform menial tasks much faster than any human ever could, just ask Henry Ford. This is in part why bots who retweet original content are so pervasive on the web. You can create a ‘retweet bot’ in a matter of minutes. Once it’s on, it won’t turn off unless you tell it to. This leads to a twitter account with an abnormally high number of tweets – the first red flag. The Digital Forensic Research Lab treats any account that tweets more than 40 times a day as suspicious, and anything over 140 as highly suspect.

  1. ANONYMITY, or who are you?

Creating a convincing fake online person can be tedious, so most bots tend towards vague anonymity. They might use generic names, false locations, and minimal or misleading bios that lack personal information. Most human twitter accounts will include at least cursory identifying information, such as a verifiable name and profile picture. They may also tweet identifying characteristics out about themselves unknowingly, such as a picture of their dog, child, car, etc., or a complaint about the weather or commute in a specific location. This is not to say that all anonymous twitter accounts are bots, but used in conjunction with other warning signs, anonymity can be a helpful indicator.

  1. AMPLIFICATION, or what are you saying?

Bots cannot easily create lucid, fully-formed thoughts on a subject. They rarely provide the nuance needed to trick a human user. So, what do they do instead? They cheat. Bots might post content written by real people. They retweet, copy news headlines verbatim, and you hope no one questions why there is no obviously original content on their page.

Using the three A’s when looking at a suspected bot account can give a user a good sense of its authenticity, but it is not foolproof. In addition to the three A’s, users should look for other indicators such as stolen pictures, accounts with very few followers and insanely high engagement rates, and usernames that appear to be randomly generated.

It’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s fake on the internet. If you’re interested in becoming a full-fledged bot-finder, I would also point you to some of the source material for this blog post, “12 Ways to Spot a Bot” by the Digital Forensics Research Lab.

Facebook’s Data Breach Raises Concerns in the Digital Media World

Cambridge Analytica and Facebook

Last year Facebook measured 240 million monthly active users in the US, each of whom provided the tech giant with a trove personal information scattered through cookies, tracking pixels, status updates, GPS check-ins,  and other widely employed data-harvesting methods. Of that 240 million, few probably stopped to think about where their data was being was being stored, who had access to it, and how it might be used. Now, that lack of transparency is causing major headaches at Facebook HQ.

Facebook was recently confronted with allegations that social media monitoring firm Cambridge Analytica harvested the personal data of 50 million of its users. Cambridge Analytica then used the data on behalf of the Trump campaign to create targeted political ads and media campaigns in the 2016 presidential election. Users, largely unaware that this data was being collected, let alone utilized, now contend their privacy was violated.

Facebook responded to the reports and denied a data breach, saying it gave permission to Aleksandr Kogan, a professor at the University of Cambridge, to gain information from users who took his personality test via an app: “thisisyourdigitallife.” Though Kogan was allowed to access the information, sharing it with Cambridge Analytica for commercial purposes crossed a line.

This latest scandal has sparked discussion over whether targeted political ads with a skeptical relationship with the truth have reached the point of interference with the principles of democracy. When Internet users see ads on social media, the ads are unique to their browsing history and tailored to their likes, dislikes, and a myriad of other data points collected by Facebook. The ad content is strategically positioned to persuade users, sometimes including biased political sentiments and misinformation that represents a user or group of users’ world view rather than objective fact. In this way Cambridge Analytica was able to influence users’ voting attitudes with personal data they had acquired.

The news of this data breach has reached lawmakers on a state and federal level. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healy recently said her office will conduct an investigation into Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. Last week, top Republicans on the Senate Commerce Committee–Senators John Thune (R-SD), Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Jerry Moran (R-KS)–stated  Mark Zuckerberg needed to testify. Additionally, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and the Senate Intelligence Committee’s top Democrat, Mark Warner (D-VA),  tried to reinforce their Honest Ads Act legislation, which aims to hold tech companies to the same political ad transparency standards as radio, TV and print outlets.

The investigations, hearings, and legislation that come out of this data breach must be watched closely. Much of the internet is still seen as a digital ‘Wild West’ with few regulations and a lot of digital marketing is still largely misunderstood. As people begin to take a closer look at what goes on behind the newsfeed, the next couple of weeks will be pivotal for determining the future of social media and digital marketing as a whole.

Image provided by Chesnot / Getty Images

What is a Bot? An Inside Look Behind Their Twitter Takeover

Twitter Website Grab

By: Account Coordinator Brook O’Meara-Sayen 

Since the 2016 presidential election, a news cycle barely goes by without at least a cursory mention of ‘bots.’ As Robert Mueller’s Special Council investigation continues to move  forward, it has become increasingly apparent that Russian state agents utilized ‘bots’ to successfully sow dissent during our this past election. These bots are Twitter Bots, Artificial Intelligence (AI)-powered Twitter accounts impersonating humans.

Twitter now estimates more than 50,000 such bots crafted in Russia were utilized by the shadowy Internet Research Agency to sow discord in our electoral process. They worked, in large part, because real Twitter users often could not discern these accounts had no human at the keyboard. Orchestrated use of bots led to online ‘movements’ and promoted divisive hashtags.

O’Neill Now is starting a new series on bots on our blog, discussing how and why they can be used, but first we need to understand what a bot is.

At the core, Twitter bots are an extremely simple concept. A bot is a piece of code or a computer program that controls a Twitter account and posts without human supervision. They can be used for a myriad of things, such as auto-creating Venn Diagrams, or sorting the pixels of images to create art. Most of the time Twitter bots are completely harmless and were created to serve a specific function. These accounts are easily identifiable and many even acknowledge their lack of a soul in the bio. They are, in essence, tools with a public facing function–and Twitter gives them the platform they require to serve the people who need their service.

As AI has risen to prominence, it was only a matter of time before someone married the two concepts, either for a legitimate goal–like automating customer service complaints–or an illegitimate one–like, say, promoting a negative hashtag about a competitor. The marriage of AI and Twitter Bots resulted in a child called SocialBots.

SocialBots bots are supposed to act like humans, posting at random times, “sleeping,” talking about mundane behaviors, etc. A SocialBot might even have a database of “human things” which will allow it to tweet about how annoying it is to do laundry, even though it’s just a few lines of code. But their ability to masquerade as a human and influence public sentiment is what makes them controversial.

So, why can a bot move public sentiment on a topic when a real person can’t? A bot can be copied again and again without limits. Together these bots can tweet the same news story and hashtag simultaneously. They can trick a target audience into believing these tweets are 50,000 people and not 50,000 lines of code.

This adds a layer of uncertainty to the social media giant: is that trending topic trending because people care about it, or does one guy with an army of bots care about it? Does my favorite politician/actor/writer/entrepreneur really have that many followers or are half of them bots created to boost their numbers?

In later installments we’ll discuss how to spot a bot, how to make one, and specific instances when bots made a difference online.

Facebook Unveils a New Era for the News Feed

We’ve already had a ‘snowmageddon’ this year, and a short-lived ‘government shutdownageddon’, but now–with Facebook’s proposed News Feed changes–get ready for the ‘Facebookageddon’.

It is safe to say Facebook had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year in 2017. The company was compelled to testify before Congress about the impact of ads purchased by Russian troll groups intended to sow discord during the 2016 election. It also come under fire over the way they handle ‘fake news’ and what they do about ‘offensive content’. To combat these sticking points Facebook hired thousands of new moderators, and recently rolled out a new system to combat the spread of false news stories from fringe websites. Watching the drama unfold over the last 12 months, it became increasing clear to us that a sea change was in the making over at Facebook. It wasn’t just us: the warning signs were there, and a lot of marketers and paid social advertisers were preparing for the worst.

On January 11th the tides did indeed change at Facebook headquarters as the company unveiled a new era for News Feed. Citing a need to deliver content that “facilitates meaningful social interactions,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that the platform would start scoring content from brands and publishers differently. Originally–as we explained in a previous post–Facebook ranked content based on metrics like clicks, comments, likes, shares, and relevance. While that original algorithm has certainly changed over the years–limiting things like text-heavy posts and images–the new update stands as a major step forward in the way they’ve been treating different kinds of content in the News Feed over the last couple of years.

The social media giant announced it will continue to move away from branded content while putting an ever-greater emphasis on posts from family, friends, and other ‘real people’ you’ve interacted with. Facebook hopes that bringing an end to the age of publisher content will offer a much needed boost to the social networking site, but is keenly aware of the damage it will do in the short term. In a statement released on the site, Zuckerberg admitted that he was aware of the negatives, saying “the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement will go down,” but offering that he expects that time spent on Facebook will be more valuable as a result. Essentially, Facebook is continuing their pivot from quantity to quality, which means much of the content you currently see on your News Feed from outside sources—videos, promotions, and ‘engagement-bait’ posts from publishers—are about to be a much less integral part of your feed.

So what does this mean for businesses, brands, and marketers? Here’s a rundown of what those changes mean to content creators, and how to navigate this digital end times:

The first thing to keep in mind as a publisher or advertiser on Facebook is that no, your career is not over. Things are changing, but keep in mind that Facebook is still the one of the most powerful and influential digital marketing tools out there.

One of the main concerns about Facebook’s new changes is the way it will impact the organic reach of posts created by publishers. Organic reach is how many people naturally see your post in their news feed, and for digital content creators it’s somewhat of the holy grail of content. When someone sees a post organically there is no ‘sponsored’ disclaimer, and the post is integrated into a user’s timeline in the same way posts from friends are. The prospect of organic reach disappearing for published pages is certainly a concern, but if you’ve been in the Facebook marketing game for a while you know organic reach has been in decline for years, as this handy graph explains.


Facebook acknowledged this specifically, saying in their announcement that “Pages may see their reach, video watch time and referral traffic decrease.” This isn’t what you want to hear if you’re a publisher, but have hope: not all is lost. Just because organic reach is about to hit all-time lows doesn’t mean you have to give up on Facebook, but you will have to pivot to advertising through the platform.

Boost Posts

One of the biggest recommendations we can offer going forward is the strategic use of the ‘Boost Post’ option. Since the Facebook changes aim to foster quality discussion between real people, engagement is key to a successful post. So, to utilize the post boosting you’ll first want to push out some content and monitor which pieces and formats of content audiences engage with best. Pick your most successful post—the one with the most amount of likes, comments, and shares—and put some money behind it. Facebook will then serve it to users, but because it already had some engagement Facebook will prioritize it because it’s proven to be quality content already.

Facebook Live

If you’ve been on Facebook in the past couple of years you know that video is everywhere. Facebook’s algorithm loves video because audiences respond better to video than any other content medium. Videos also keep users on the site longer because they stop scrolling to watch interesting content, and are more likely to click on related video content. We expect this to change in the new update. Video will still be there, but it won’t be the omnipresent force it has been for the last few years, meaning you can expect drops in views and engagement, even if you’re pushing out awesome videos. One area will probably still be a winner is Facebook Live. Facebook Live drives six times as much engagement as edited video, and users watch live videos three times longer than regular ones.  You can use this to your advantage by using Live for things you usually wouldn’t: live stream your podcast, major announcements, everyday office activities (behind-the scenes), answer questions, talk about breaking news, or anything else you feel could be interesting live. Again, boring content probably won’t drive engagement here, but it can be a great way to get some organic reach if you’ve got something good to say.


The new update is about fostering meaningful discussion between real users, and Facebook’s Groups boast a high engagement rate because the whole point of Groups is to get like-minded people talking to each other. If you’re already part of some groups you might notice you see more ‘group posts’ than you do posts from Pages you like, and the more comments and likes the post has, the higher it gets ranked. As engagement plummets on publisher pages it might be worth it to create a group for your company, product, or even just a community group for people interested in whatever subject your page is about. If you already have a robust page with regular interaction you’ll definitely want to consider this route—you can channel people from your page to your group, then use that group to post content similar to that of your page, but with a focus on fostering constructive discussions between real people. Once they start talking your engagement will rise and Facebook will begin to place your group posts organically into feeds.


Just because the News Feed is changing doesn’t mean the ads are. Facebook still has the most robust ad interface in the game, and properly created Facebook ads are still going to be incredibly efficient tools to get yourself or your brand out there. Ad prices are likely to rise with the new algorithm changes, which means it’s more important than ever to use best practices when creating ads. Use short, punchy copy and arresting, low-text graphics. Video ads are always great, but they need to be professionally made. However, even the most beautiful Facebook ad can underperform if it isn’t shown the right people. Audience segments and custom audience lists will become paramount to success. Increased ad prices mean it becomes imperative that you’re serving your content ONLY to segments that are interested in your product. You won’t be selling fidget spinners to nursing home residents, and you won’t get many middle schoolers to sign up for life insurance, so keep in mind exactly who your audience or customers are.


Facebook owns Instagram, but they’re different platforms. Instagram has the potential to be a powerful marketing resource once you clear a few hurdles. First, you need really nice looking pictures—if you’re selling a product some iPhone pictures won’t cut it. Consider videos of the product being made, the product in action, and strategic partnerships with trending pages and Instagram thought leaders. The proper use of hashtags can also be a significant boon and can boost views and engagement—much more so than Facebook.

Final Thoughts

While this update certainly isn’t designed to help digital marketers or companies hoping to utilize the immensely powerful tech giant to sell products, the term “Facebookageddon” isn’t completely accurate. Yes, publishers will have to adjust, innovate, branch out to other platforms, and compensate for the loss of organic reach—but all is not lost. Do not abandon ship. Remember, Facebook is still by far the largest social networking site ever, and is still home to active discussion groups, two billion monthly active users, and an incredibly robust advertisement infrastructure. Tactics will have to change, but this is by no means the end of Pages, publisher content, or advertising on Facebook. Have questions? Reach out to us and we can help.


The Consumer Electronics Show is a Hit in More Ways than One

By: Brook O’Meara-Sayen, Account Coordinator

As the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) wraps up in Las Vegas, I thought I’d offer some take-aways, or things that got me excited as a millennial (spoiler alert: the most exciting thing—and I think I speak for all millennials when I say this—was the laundry folding robot).

CES has come a long way since its 1967 New York inception. That first year the show boasted just 14 exhibitors, advertising the pinnacles of space age technology–mostly radios and TV sets. In keeping with its message of a better future, the event creators took great care to point out “ladies are invited” to the event, betraying that a male dominated tech industry was a problem well before Silicon Valley.

What wild science fiction fantasies would those first attendants have dreamed up if they’d been asked to describe on the products on display 51 years later? Flying cars, perhaps, but what about driverless ones? Robots of some kind, doubtless, but intelligent-pet-dog-robots?

One thing no attendees, past or present, expected was the moment of (literally) blinding irony that occurred on Wednesday, when the power at the Las Vegas Convention Center abruptly went out. While the blackout kept convention-goers in the dark for a few hours it did set Twitter alight, and #CESBlackout was trending for much of the afternoon on Wednesday.


Joking aside, what were the main themes from this year’s CES? This year two industries generated a significant amount of buzz: autonomous or smart cars, and AI powered home assistants—and, in some cases, the marriage of the two. This is good news for those of us waiting for every drudgery of life to be automated, but very bad news if you’re a chauffeur or a butler, because you’re probably about to be replaced by a well-crafted set of ones and zeroes.

If CES was any indication, cars are about to get a lot smarter in the next few years, with the proliferation of autonomous technology. Not all of the cars featured in Las Vegas were fully self-driving, with many instead tackling the challenging of combining comforts and user-facing dashboard computers with the capabilities of AIs like Amazon’s Alexa. Garmin had its improved Garmin Speaks Plus, a windshield navigation system featuring Amazon’s game changing AI tech. Several automakers also unveiled their plans for AI-powered interior control centers and autonomous driving.  As assistants proliferate in cars, another feature is set to expand: dashboard displays. Many of the most eye-catching automotive innovations came in the form of massive dash displays, dwarfing any currently marketed built-in display. Byton and Harman both showed off prototypes guaranteed to give even the largest and most bedecked luxury automobile screen-envy.

Cars were not the only everyday electronics getting ‘AI’d’ this year. Qualcomm announced a team-up with Google to get the Google Assistant into a consumer-facing ‘Home Hub’ module. The purpose, as ZDnet writes is to “support rapid production and commercialization of AI-equipped home hub products featuring Google services, such as Cast, TensorFlow, Duo, and Maps.” ZDNet reported Harman and Lenovo are currently working on products that will incorporate Home Hub.  Manufacturing giant Whirlpool announced it would be adding even more smart voice-recognition software to its appliances, as is rival manufacturer LG. GE announced it would let you choose whether you want to order Google Assistant or Alexa to turn down the heat on your new stove.

In total, Google announced 15 new collaborations with appliance manufacturers from Altec Lansing to Sony. The goal, it seems, is to turn the internet of things into a chatroom. Apple announced it would join the home assistant craze with HomePod, a Siri powered smart-speaker, while Samsung promised newer and greater things from its robotic know-it-all Bixby. Even Harman partnered with a company called SmartBeings to create WooHoo, the first “affordable” AI-powered home assistant.

This year almost every product on display was smart in one way or another. Some, like the product mentioned above, make sense as logical next steps for the industry to take. Others, like a vibrating hairbrush, seem to me to take the trend a little far. A voice-activated trashcan makes another excellent addition to the “oh-come-on-you-can-just-do-that-normally” category. A self-servicing kitty-litter box also had a booth—and, I presume—a fair amount of slightly confused guests (no word on whether cats are allowed at CES).

So, what is the takeaway from the 2018 CES? My main takeaway is that 2018 is the year of AI-power, although I have a sneaking suspicion this isn’t the last CES to be dominated by it. CES is also foreshadowing a battle that may not be decided by the time the show reconvenes next year: the Amazon vs. Google smart-assistant war. Alexa currently hoards 70% of the market share on AI home assistants, but with lots of new collaborations and an updated Assistant, the two are setting up for a showdown of Blu-ray vs. HDDVD proportions.

CES foreshadowed something else this year too: you may be the least ‘smart’ thing in your home or car by the time 2020 hits.

O’Neill and Associates Expects the Positive Momentum in Boston to Continue with Mayor Walsh’s Second Term



Mayor Martin J. Walsh was sworn in to serve a second term.*


As Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh begins his second four year term, O’Neill and Associates expects the positive momentum in Boston to continue. We find ways to help the administration’s vision for the City while we work to advance our clients’ goals. January 1st was a historic day of pomp and circumstance as former Vice President Joe Biden was on hand as Mayor Walsh took the oath of office at the historic Cutler Majestic Theater on Tremont St.

Mayor Walsh impressed many insiders throughout the 2017 campaign. He chose not to simply rest on his laurels during the campaign, and showed a tenacious campaign spirit and an organized team in every ward and precinct throughout the City. The results spoke for themselves; Mayor Walsh garnered 66 percent of the vote in his reelection, and he sent a strong message that he is committed to his vision and leading this City into the 2020s.

Boston is a city on the move. Mayor Walsh helped bring General Electric’s world headquarters to the Fort Point Channel. This global corporate giant is already making an impact on the City through its charitable giving. It also has become a fan of the home team by flashing its logo on the jerseys of the Boston Celtics in a partnership in which it will provide the historic team with 21st century data analysis, and partner with the team to support community initiatives.

The development boom has continued and once completed, will be the biggest in the City’s history as Mayor Walsh aims to stabilize housing prices in a City that has continued to see its population rise. The Mayor also has also been praised for his accessibly, his modernization of City Hall and how it tracks progress and civic engagement, and the creation of over 70,000 new jobs.

The Mayor says that his second term will prioritize the implementation of ideas established in his first four years in office. Among the second term goals that Walsh laid out in his inauguration speech were stabilizing the City’s middle-class by improving school curriculums and school buildings, as well as creating more homeownership opportunities and assistance. He also announced an effort to help the most marginalized citizens by housing more homeless people and rebuilding the Long Island Bridge to support and assist those affected by the opioid crisis.

O’Neill and Associates respects the productive relationships we have with the Walsh Administration. The reach and results of our client engagements extend to Boston City Hall and municipal government because of our deep knowledge of the city and our skill sets with municipal relations. Whether it’s cutting through departmental requirements and procedures, earning key approvals at Boards like the Zoning Board of Appeals or Boston Licensing Board or traversing through the arduous processes of the Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA), O’Neill and Associates is prepared to help make Boston even better. We congratulate Mayor Walsh and look forward to more progress in 2018.

*Image from www.boston.gov

A Faith That Does Justice Holds Community Meeting on Ending Homelessness


Rosanne Haggerty, Fr. Peter Gyves, Becca Fritz, and Fr. J. Bryan Hehir at AFTDJ’s Community Meeting on Ending Homelessness

What are the three actions that communities can take to end homelessness?  A Faith That Does Justice (AFTDJ) sought an answer to this question at its second Boston Community Meeting on December 19th. According to Rosanne Haggerty, president and CEO of Community Solutions in New York City, communities must know homeless individuals by name and know their specific circumstances. Successful communities adopt a “command center” approach to solving homelessness as they do for coping with natural disasters. Finally, communities need data in real time in order to learn what actions are effective and those that are not.  Haggerty, formerly a McArthur Foundation fellow, was interviewed by Rev. J. Bryan Hehir, the Secretary of Social Services of the Archdiocese of Boston.

AFTDJ is an ecumenical nonprofit working to move people to action in confronting injustices in the United States. Its goal is to create solidarity among people who very often have little contact in contemporary society – those with wealth, education, and privilege and those who are living in poverty and in threatened communities.  Its Community Meetings help educate participants in the challenges facing vulnerable populations and the ways to improve those circumstances.

An estimated 200 attendees – including representatives from Boston Health Care for the Homeless, the Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance, the City of Boston, and several faith traditions – were at the Community Meeting that was held in Boston at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul. Ms. Haggerty recounted her journey from being a developer of supportive housing to becoming a community leader using a systems based approach to ending homelessness.  She believes that communities can solve the problem of homelessness if they do so holistically.  This means breaking down the siloes among the multiple public and private agencies providing programs for the homeless and engaging all members of the community as part of the process.

The meeting also featured a first-person testimonial from Becca, who first became homeless at the age of 15 after her mother became gravely ill and her father took his own life while in the grips of addiction.  Becca described being left to her own devices to find shelter, even though she was a minor. She described her ordeal as a “failure of the system.”  Eventually, after being hospitalized for an eating disorder, she received support from Bridge Over Troubled Waters in Boston.  She is now housed, working and attending school.

AFTDJ was formed in San Diego, where Fr. Peter Gyves, SJ MD, brought together English-speaking and Spanish-speaking communities to share experiences and concerns about the direction the country was taking.  Fr. Peter moved the program to Boston last year and expanded its mission. In addition to holding workshops, which bring vulnerable populations and long-time Boston residents together, AFTDJ hosts Community Meetings on topics that impact vulnerable populations, such as immigration and homelessness.  AFTDJ will hold its next Community Meeting in March 2018.  If you are interested in learning more about its work, visit their Website, Like them at Facebook or Follow them on Twitter.

The 2017 #RedKettle Campaign

Salvation Army

The Salvation Army launched its annual #RedKettle Campaign on November 20, with a goal of raising $3.5 million this year to provide programming and services for hundreds of thousands of children, families and seniors across Massachusetts. This includes meals, toys and other holiday support for those in need, along with funding for food pantries, soup kitchens, social services, and education programs. The campaign will run until Christmas Eve.

Each year, as part of the annual campaign, The Salvation Army hosts celebrity bell ringers who compete with one another for bragging rights as “Celebrity Bellringer Champion.” They have been fortunate to already have support from Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, Auditor Suzanne Bump, The WCVB news team, Boston25 news team, Wally the Green Monster, Slyde the Fox from the New England Revolution, and Blade from the Boston Bruins.

This week’s celebrity Bellringers include Governor Charlie Baker, Mayor Marty Walsh, House Speaker Robert DeLeo, Treasurer Deb Goldberg, and Keytar Bear. House Speaker DeLeo will try to defend his title as the reigning Celebrity Bellringer Champion, having raised the highest amount in 2016.

As the Red Kettle campaign goes on, The Salvation Army was also hard at work hosting their 18th annual Christmas Castle event Monday, December 18 – Wednesday, December 20. During this time, more than 19,000 Boston area residents were assisted as families have the opportunity to “shop” for warm coats and toys and receive a voucher for a warm Christmas dinner. Although all of the items are free to the families, allowing parents to select coats and toys for their children is an important way the program provides necessary assistance, but also restores the dignity that poverty robs from those in need. The Christmas Castle also brings together nearly two dozen Boston area businesses and organizations and over 500 volunteers that help staff the event.

The Salvation Army Christmas Castle is one of the largest holiday distribution initiatives in the state of Massachusetts and provides toys, food vouchers, and winter coats to families in need across the City. Anton’s Cleaners CEO Arthur Anton, who oversees the company’s Coats for Kids program that distributes over 60,000 coats each year, will also be volunteering. The Presenting Sponsor for this year’s Christmas Castle is MFS Investment Management.

Blink! 2017 at Faneuil Hall Marketplace

Faneuil Hall Marketplace’s annual Holiday Blink! show is captivating visitors from near and far. The new and improved Holiday Blink! lights up the Marketplace for five weeks from November 29 to January 1, 2018 and hosts a new series of weekly events called “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” for charity.  Faneuil Hall Marketplace continues the annual tradition of having the largest tree in the northeast, an 85-foot tree adorned with decorations, sparkling lights and synchronized to music to provide entertainment for visitors who want an authentic New England holiday experience.

Holiday Blink! was launched during a live television special on WBZ-TV, Ch. 4 on November 28th at 7:30 p.m. hosted by WBZ-TV news anchors Lisa Hughes and David Wade with special appearances from Julian Edelman of the New England Patriots, Governor Charlie Baker, Mayor Marty Walsh, Boston Children’s Chorus, Blue Man Group and Santa.

On Saturdays, the new Holiday Blink! show features live music and dance parties for “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree for Charity”  where a different charity is the beneficiary of the day’s event.

This year, there are a few new twists to Blink! that has been redesigned to feature more lights that can morph into all colors of the spectrum, more sound with a variety of holiday songs being piped throughout the Marketplace.  Every day through January 1, 2018, the tree lights up at 4:30 p.m. with a light and sound show every half hour until 10 p.m.

On December 16th, the Upper Rotunda at Quincy Market will be transformed into a giant Candyland Playathon to benefit the nonprofit organization, Pitching In For Kids that supports children’s charities in New England. For $10 admission, you can play the popular children’s game board with hundreds of others and enjoy live entertainment, food from Faneuil Hall Merchants and every child will leave with a Hasbro toy!

On Saturdays, the new Holiday Blink! show features live music and dance parties for “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree for Charity”  where a different charity is the beneficiary of the day’s event.

On December 16th, the Upper Rotunda at Quincy Market will be transformed into a giant Candyland Playathon to benefit the nonprofit organization, Pitching In For Kids that supports children’s charities in New England. For $10 admission, you can play the popular children’s game board with hundreds of others and enjoy live entertainment, food from Faneuil Hall Merchants and every child will leave with a Hasbro toy!

Also appearing on December 16th and December 23rd, in addition to the live entertainment, there’s “Selfies with Santa” as Santa Claus greets visitors throughout the Marketplace taking photos from noon to 4 p.m.

If you are looking to do something on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, then Faneuil Hall Marketplace is just the spot for you.

Ring in the New Year on December 31st for an afternoon Dance Party with Karson from Mix 104.1 FM from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.  But that’s not all!  The Marketplace is one of a dozen-plus sites around the Boston Waterfront to host ice sculptures for the Interactive Ice Sculpture Stroll in partnership with Boston Harbor Now, Friends of Christopher Columbus Park and the Wharf District Council.  Hop on the Blink! Bench which is perfect for family photos and selfies. You will be in for a treat with post-holiday sales at Faneuil Hall Marketplace shops, and lots of places to grab a bite to eat to usher in the New Year.  Be sure to catch the final shows of Blink! at the 85-ft holiday tree that run every half-hour from 4:30 – 10 p.m. through January 1, 2018.

Huzzah! The Midnight Harbor Fireworks return!  Start 2018 off with a spectacular fireworks show on New Year’s Eve at midnight with great viewing from the waterfront at Christopher Columbus Park, just a short walk from Faneuil Hall Marketplace.  For a complete schedule of all events at Faneuil Hall Marketplace and Blink! visit www.faneuilhallmarketplace.com.