When Facebook Groups Turn Ugly: A Response to Northeast Skiology Matt

On January 13, Matthew Bramble, a.k.a “Skiology Matt,” the founder and moderator of the Northeast Skiology Facebook group made a number of damaging and false claims under the headline “ADDRESSING FALSE CLAIMS, HARASSMENT AND THREATS.”  The full text is posted at the bottom of this page and covers 9 pages. Names of individuals have been redacted. The post received more than 170 comments. Bramble’s post was made just as Northeast Skiology was closing out its annual crowd-sourced fundraising drive.

Bramble falsely and wrongly implicated Vermont Ski + Ride magazine in this long and rambling diatribe. We have tried through personal emails to ask him to correct the record and informed him that publicly linking VT Ski + Ride with any perceived threat made by a user of an unrelated Facebook group is libelous. He has not responded. He has since been notified by our legal counsel that what he posted was not only factually wrong but also defamatory.

A few key facts:

> Neither VT Ski + Ride nor its employees wish Matthew Bramble of Niskayuna, NY, the administrator of the Facebook group Northeast Skiology, nor anyone in his group ill will. This has been both publicly stated and shared with Bramble in private emails. Bramble operated the site under his own name, Matthew Bramble, for much of 2019 before switching to the pseudonym, Skiology Matt.

> In fact, upon Bramble’s request, VT Ski + Ride wrote about the good work he was doing; first on March 18, 2020, in “How Skier/Rider Opinions on Covid-19 Changed” and then again on April 22, 2020 in  “Skiing’s PPE Cottage Industry.”  We spoke with Bramble by phone for both articles. He did not raise objections to either article until “How Skier/Rider Opinions Changed” was posted to the Northeast Clownology Facebook page on Dec. 22.

> Bramble has been discussing Covid-19 restrictions on his site since March, 2020. He has repeatedly stated that as a “member of the media,” he did not need to quarantine or follow Vermont’s state guidelines.

> In this editorial, written in November 2020 for the Holidays print edition of VT Ski + Ride, the magazine’s editor wrote about the importance of following Vermont’s strict Covid-19 guidelines. It was the editor’s opinion then, and is now, that Facebook group administrators, bloggers, weather reporters and ski media are not on par with accredited “news media” such as those affiliated with weekly or daily newspapers, radio stations or TV stations. Those media personnel are considered “essential workers” and exempt from quarantine guidelines. In no place did this article accuse anyone of not quarantining, nor did it mention Bramble or Skiology.

> Bramble has repeatedly claimed he is being harassed and threatened on the Internet by followers of multiple groups. In his January 13 post he lumped VT Ski + Ride in with those claims. In his accusations, however, he has only cited two comments made in various Facebook groups (Ski the East, Ski the East Singles and NE Clownology). Those comments were removed by each group’s administrators.  None of the comments he cites were made by VT Ski + Ride or anyone associated with the publication. VT Ski + Ride had no prior knowledge of those comments and does not even operate a Facebook group. It is therefore defamatory to implicate VT Ski + Ride in that post.

> The brunt of Bramble’s accusations appear aimed at current and past members of the NE Clownology Facebook group. This group was formed and joined by people who discovered that Bramble responded to even mild criticism or corrections of his frequently inaccurate posts by deleting their comments or banning them from the group. A Reddit group has also made the same observations. The NE Clownology group has included pro skiers, senior ski patrollers, ski guides, medical professionals, professional weather forecasters and the editors of the East’s two largest print ski publications.  Bramble, by his own admission, has been snowboarding for fewer than 6 years and has no professional background or training in meteorology or journalism.

> Further, Bramble has relentlessly pursued several members of the NE Clownology group by contacting their friends, their employers, and the heads of organizations they participate in– claiming again that he is being “harassed” by them.

We decry all harassment.  And we applaud Bramble’s efforts to build a community of skiers and riders. However,  his private and – now public – vendettas are unwarranted, ungrounded in reality, unsupported by fact, and are deeply troubling, if not harassing in their own right.

We continue to ask for a public apology and for Matthew Bramble to cease this behavior.

NE Skiology Jan. 13 pdf