As Courtenay City Council candidate Mano Theos found out, social media can be a dangerous place for current and aspiring elected officials. And are anonymous commenters committing election tampering?
Social media have influenced British Columbia politics right down to the local government level, and not always in a good way.
Negative and mean-spirited attacks on elected officials, sometimes from anonymous sources using fake names, have caused candidates and elected officials to drop off the social media grid.
Courtenay City Council candidate Mano Theos feels he was attacked last week, on a Facebook group page called Comox Valley Politics, for posting comments that he says were meant as light-hearted and fun.
Others in the group felt Theos expressed “anger” and acted “immature” for a municipal councillor.
In response to a post by Diana Schroeder, Theos added this comment: “Sounds as though you need a really big hug from one of your Dogwood supporters.”
Schroeder: “My Dogwood supporters? Your assumptions often lead to false conclusions.”
Theos: “Smiling is good for the soul.”
Jamie McCue: “Not surprised your first response in this group is to be condescending to an engaged citizen. You think that sort of attitude will get you elected? You’re sorely wrong!”
And the conversation continued in this vein with 32 separate comments.
“I was trying to inject some light humor into the discussion,” Theos told Decafnation. “People take things way too seriously sometimes.”
The incident with Theos, who is seeking a sixth term on City Council, was minor compared to the bullying and threats directed at elected officials elsewhere in the province and on the Island.
Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, for example, announced in March that she was quitting Facebook, calling it a “toxic echo chamber.”
And she was recently quoted in the Victoria Times-Colonist saying the downsides of social media outweigh the upsides.
“The downsides are it’s really, I would say, a threat to democracy and the ability to have face-to-face conversations about important issues,” the newspaper quoted her as saying.
Theos agrees that face-to-face conversations are more productive.
“If anybody wants to talk to me, my number is in the phone book,” he said.
After his initial foray onto Facebook, Theos has decided “Social media is not something I want to be a part of.
“Trying to talk with people on Facebook, I don’t even know these people, and some of them are not even real. They’re fake names,” he said.
View Royal Mayor David Screech told the Times-Colonist that commenting about candidates through anonymous Facebook pages might constitute election tampering.
“It’s not acceptable under the election rules to deliver leaflets anonymously. I don’t see why it should be any different on social media,” he told the newspaper.
The practice of using fake Facebook accounts to comment on websites and other social media platforms has made it’s way to the Comox Valley.
A frequent poster on the Comox Valley Politics site is “Peter McGillicuddy,” which appears to be a fake name and fake Facebook profile for someone making anonymous comments.
Just so I’m clear, a secretive right-wing organization spends hundreds, thousands on attack ads against people they don’t agree with (and though a medium where the victims are unable to defend themselves).
They then go to a public forum where they themselves come under criticism stirred up by their very actions – and are apparently unable to fend for themselves.
They then run of crying foul about how everybody is so mean.
Ah, the hypocrisy, it smells so sickly sweet.
P.S. the internet’s has been a potentially nasty place for 20 years. This is not new. Look at any youtube feed.
Anybody who believes they are somehow special and above criticism for their actions while engaging in social media are beyond deluded and well out of touch with the online platform. Say something foolish, you will get backlash on it. On the internet, you’re not special, no matter how marvelous you think you are.
It is a platform for people’s raw opinions stripped away from a polite civil facade. If you can’t handle the heat, get out of the kitchen.
P.P.S. One can hide behind legalities all they want. That only protects them from legal recourse. But if you are a member of a group trying to sway a democratic election while hiding your identities and skulking about behind curtains (especially after the farce south of the border), you better believe there’ll be pushback. People are going to be suspicious of your motivations and wondering what other things you are hiding.
Very well said. Perhaps you could encorage the hosts for the upcoming “candidates meetings” to be required to re-open the meetings to spontaneous questions from the floor …. a form of censorship is creeping in ; hardly what the founders of democratic debate had in mind. Cheers
If he was being light hearted and fun why did he not step in to apologize when people got upset?
Easy to try and pass it off as a joke when all is said and done. I was someone he attacked and I did not feel.it was light hearted and fun.
He didn’t even try and find out what I was referring to, he jumped to an incorrect conclusion and used sarcasm to deflect.
Not a good way to engage.
Worse if you neglect to step in when someone takes it the wrong way.
The fact he is dancing around it and crying foul to the press rather than actually addressing those concerned is pretty sad and manipulative in itself.
No one (especially an incumbent politician looking for re-election) should joke that a member of a public debate is depressed and needs help and think it’s being “light hearted and fun” to do so.
I have noted before, they are no names attached to the Comox Valley Tax Payers Alliance. I like to know who is expressing views, specially in a full page newspaper ad. I have been saying for years, if you won’t sign your full name to your comments, you have nothing to say.
I joined the Comox Valkey politics group and I posted polite questions that I had asked some candidates along with their responses. I had already forwarded complaints I had received from some candidates about trolls to the admin. I was immediately viciously attacked by Diana Schroeder, Peter Mcgullicuddy and others.
Naturally I responded to defend myself. I was then contacted by admin and told to “cool it”, that I was posting too much, was monopolizing the conversation and that this would not be tolerated. In the end I was told my posts were OK but that I shouldn’t respond to the attacks. I was accused of taking an all or nothing approach. I left the group as I am not about to sit and be attacked and not defend myself. It appears to me that this is a left wing group that allows trolls and others to attack right wing candidates and individuals at will. This is not a forum where meaningful debate takes place unless you are posting left wing ideology.
“Sounds as though you need a really big hug from one of your Dogwood supporters.” Does that sound like light humour or a backhand from someone who has been brainwashed by Vivian Krause? It was intended to be an insult and that is how I took it. It’s not even correct grammar. Did he mean to imply that Dogwood supported me or that I supported Dogwood? Even worse is that he tried to justify it. Is this his idea of accountability? btw – An anonymous Facebook profile is nothing new. Not everyone feels comfortable revealing their name and some can speak more freely with a ‘Facebook’ name. As long as they are not ‘trolling’ its perfectly acceptable Facebook behaviour. If you want to talk about real-life anonymous people who are interfering in the election, talk to the Comox Valley Tax Payers Association. Their only face is their spokesperson Dick Clancy, and nobody seems to know who is funding their advertising or the campaign for their slate of candidates. Who are these people?
Diana, those are good old boy comments. I would not have appreciated them being made to me.
Thanks for your comments, Diana. Trying to accurately determine a person’s intent is a modern day problem with email and online commenting. I don’t know Mano’s true intentions.
But I must disagree with you that fake Facebook accounts are “perfectly acceptable Facebook behavior.” First of all, it violates Facebook’s terms of service. But more importantly, it is unethical, especially so during an election campaign when there is so much at stake. I agree with Debbie Baier’s comment below that if you are too cowardly to sign your real name, you have nothing to say.
And that goes for the CVTA, too. In my view, they are just as cowardly as the Peter McGillicuddys of the world. Why in the world should those of us who want open and honest debate about issues and candidates put up with those who hide behind anonymity? I won’t do it.
We can’t have it both ways: criticize the CVTA and excuse the McGillicuddys.
I like Michele Obama’s philosophy, “When they go low, we go high.”
George just to be clear. There are privacy laws in this province. No organization that I know of including Dogwood, the NDP, the Rotary Club, Probus etc releases their membership lists to the public. Even if they wanted to the privacy legislation prevents it unless the members agree to having their personal information released prior to signing up to belong to an organization. We, the messenger, is being attacked for respecting people’s legislated right to privacy. I have asked Diana Schroeder in a different forum which of the values that we stand for she disagrees with. They are shown on our website at cvtaxpayer.com. She identified amalgamation. Fair enough. We can disagree on that. But to attack us for not violating the privacy legislation by refusing to make our membership and donors list public is simply unfair and is attacking the messenger, not the message.