It turns out Mayor-elect Rob Ford, the candidate who was the subject at least six fake Twitter accounts, had a few Twitter tricks up his sleeve.
After being the butt of so many anonymous swipes, the Ford campaign was also taking advantage of the anonymity of Twitter to advance its own ends – by setting up a fake Twitter account.
Unlike the fake Fords, his campaign did not intend parody. It purported to be the account of a downtown Toronto citizen – a woman who supported George Smitherman. In reality, it was run by Ford’s deputy communications director, Fraser Macdonald.
The account was used to get a copy of the audio recording of Ford offering to buy a seemingly distressed constituent OxyCotin. The aim was damage control.
Torontoist has archived the tweets of @QueensQuayKaren if you’re interested in what that looks like. @QueensQuayKaren sported a George Smitherman Twibbon and would lament Smitherman trailing behind Ford until, in the dying days of the campaign she seemed to start leaning toward Ford. It is unlikely that this had much impact on the debate in the #voteto echo-chamber.
During the summer, a small legion of fake Fords mocked his missteps in council, his campaign gaffes, his platform and his weight. Other candidates (and would-be candidates like John Tory) were not spared from the anonymous sniping – the fake Sarah Thomson (@OTnosmohT) was viscious and even set up a blog that continued to focus on Thomson after she left the race. Of course, the focus on Ford’s indiscretions in the Twittersphere did not reflect how they played out in the electorate, which seemed to find Ford’s fumbles endearing.
I don’t doubt that fake accounts have been set up before, not just for parody but also with the underlying deception of the @QueenQuayKaren case. Now the mirage has been broken, revealing that social media cannot be – and maybe never was – an oasis for frank, often civil discussion. This certainly counters the dominant narrative that accompanied stories about Calgary’s Naheed Nenshi’s social media engagement or even Barack Obama’s campaign in the 2008 U.S. election.
What does Rob Ford mean? Journalists are eager to unpack him. What I still remember is that during the campaign, he said he wanted to be Prime Minister someday. Nicholas Kohler at Maclean’s and Kelly Grant at the Globe and Mail have both looked inside the Ford campaign (it seems like they had remarkable access) and have provided some insight into how he won and what’s next. Grant also delves into the Twitter mess as part of a broad and effective consideration of what Ford is going to do now.
- Nicholas Kohler, How Rob Ford Won Toronto, Maclean’s
- Kelly Grant, Rob Ford: The lone wolf who has to learn to lead a pack, Globe and Mail