Party leaders lose control of Facebook

Facebook worked great, until someone added a 'Redneck' tag

This election is the first ever in which every party leader has a Facebook page — but some are finding the medium is more of a curse than a blessing.

The idea is simple: use social networking to interact with Web-savvy young voters. But unlike with TV and radio, the parties can’t really control Facebook. Not only are voters posting a stream of unflattering comments on the site, but some are even using it creatively to organize against the parties.

Nearly 17 million Canadians have a Facebook page, and the site allows leaders to post not just policy announcements, but photos and personal information, such as their favourite movies. It can also allow visitors to post comments, which many did last week when Jack Layton was clobbered by his own supporters over his opposition to allowing Elizabeth May into the televised debates. “Sorry Jack, you just lost my vote. Nice work,” was one such post.

Other posts are downright bizarre — such as comments on Layton’s moustache, or a Torontonian asking him to commit to a “national chorizo sausage strategy” to promote deli meats. Meanwhile, on Harper’s page, one user has managed to label the Prime Minister’s photo with the tag “Redneck.”

But that’s nothing compared to what the 3,770-member “Anti-Harper Vote Swap Canada” Facebook group has been up to. Established last week, its members have set up a sophisticated system to help users strategically prevent Conservative wins. It works by connecting users whose preferred candidate has little chance of winning with other members willing to vote for the party that has the best chance at stopping the local Tory candidate. The enterprise has alarmed Elections Canada to the point that they’re investigating to see if it’s legal.

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